We’ve come to a plastic fork in the road

Régine Biscoe Lee

A proposed law supported by Democrats and Republicans would implement a streamlined voter registration process for all eligible U.S. citizen residents of Guam with the choice to opt out, was introduced yesterday by Sen. Régine Biscoe Lee.

Sens. Wil Castro, Fernando Esteves, Tommy Morrison, Joe San Agustin and Mary Torres co-sponsored Bill 234-34.

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

The information citizens are asked upon registering to vote is the same information being collected by the DMV. With the policy, the information will be transmitted to election registrars, who check each applicant for voter eligibility, and add or update their information on the voter rolls.

Biscoe Lee said the policy would make voting easier and encourage voter participation because it removes a hurdle in the registration process, and more eligible citizens would be registered to vote.

The policy fact sheet states the bill would: offer convenience, as residents will not have to go to two agencies to provide the same documentation for different services; ease the voting process as residents would not have to worry about missing the registration deadline or experience discrepancies in information on election day; and increase voter registration numbers and participation.

The operation will not impact registrants' ability to obtain their identification cards or driver's licenses.

Furthermore, the bill would expand the efforts of Sen. Torres' 2015 "Motor Voter Law," which made voter registration optional when applying for a new or renewed ID card or driver's license.

The team said it looks forward to working with the Department of Revenue and Taxation, the Guam Election Commission and other stakeholders as they seek another efficient and convenient way to register voters.

"Involvement in our government's democratic process through voting should be as streamlined for our citizens as possible," Biscoe Lee said.

Biscoe Lee is the chairwoman of the Committee on Innovation and Economic, Workforce, and Youth Development in the 34th Guam Legislature.

Voter numbers

According to GEC, the number of registered voters in 2016 was about 51,000, as opposed to 61,000 in 2002.

The commission's 2016 Election Comparative Analysis states the percentage of voter turnout in general elections has bounced between 67 and 77 percent since 2000, in contrast to 80 to 90 percent in past decades. The turnout for primary elections has been as low as 43 percent in the past 10 years.

Nine states and Washington, D.C., have enacted legislation to automatically register voters, and 32 states have introduced similar legislation this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

The center said the policy modernizes voter registration and dramatically increases registration rates, stating that nearly every state in the U.S. that has adopted the policy has grown its voter registration numbers, some by up to sevenfold. Improved voter turnout at elections has been attributed to the policy, as well.