Automatic voter registration discussed

GEC: A Guam Election Commission staffer feeds ballots into the tabulation machines at the commission's office November 2016 in the GCIC building in Hagåtña. Post file photo

Additional costs and other factors such as the implementation of the Real ID requirement in June could affect the implementation of the automatic voter registration process proposed in Bill 234-34.

The concerns were expressed by Guam Election Commission Executive Director Maria Pangelinan, who testified during Wednesday's public hearing on the legislation.

Bill 234 proposes to implement automatic voter registration for eligible U.S. citizen residents of Guam.

The measure, introduced by Sen. Régine Biscoe Lee, would register eligible citizens as voters upon their registration for an ID card or driver's license with the Motor Vehicles Division of the Department of Revenue and Taxation. The registration will happen automatically unless the registrant checks a box to opt out.

"We know that it is going to cost us some more money and we have indicated what the cost may be," Pangelinan said. "As you know, we are still working on the implementation of online voter registration and we still have not come to how much it will cost completely."

Pangelinan said the Real ID compliance target date is now June 25.

"The online voter registration hinges on that because of the vetting process," she said.

Pangelinan added that the commission cannot gauge how much it would cost to implement the proposed legislation. However, several potential costs once the bill becomes law include purchasing software and hardware for sending registrant information from Rev and Tax to GEC. The commission also noted it would require additional personnel costs to verify, validate and process those who will be registering through Rev and Tax.

Pangelinan, in her written testimony, said the commission continues to collaborate with Rev and Tax on the voting registration process.

Effective policy

"This is a policy that has been adopted with positive outcomes in now 13 states, and also 30 other states have pending legislation because this is an effective policy that supports our citizens, and requires a streamlining of government processes in favor of our voters," Biscoe Lee said.

According to the senator, nearly every state that offers automatic voter registration has nearly doubled its registration rates.

During the hearing, the senator also read the resolution adopted by the Mayors' Council of Guam in support of the bill.

The government should clear bureaucratic obstacles to the ballot box and automatic voter registration would vastly improve American democracy, the resolution states.

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