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Automatic Voter Registration Exists To Keep Democrats In Power, So Why Aren’t Republicans Fighting It?

The whole point of AVR is to boost Democrats’ get-out-the-vote and ballot-harvesting operations by saving them resources currently spent on voter registration.

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Election integrity hawks — myself among them — have spilled gallons of ink since 2020 exposing ballot drop boxes, “Zuckbucks,” and voting machine vulnerabilities, and conservatives are all the better prepared to face the 2024 election for those efforts. But there’s a massive front in this fight we can’t afford to overlook because we’re losing: voter registration. 

If getting out the vote (GOTV) is the key to winning elections, registering voters is the key to effective GOTV. But doing it at scale takes money and coordination, something Republican strategists and donors have almost totally ignored. 

As it stands, the left is more than a decade ahead in that race. 

Beginning around 2008, “progressive” operatives discovered they could weaponize 501(c)(3) charities — the same part of the tax code as your local church or The Salvation Army — to identify and register tens of millions of new Democrat voters across the country purely by using demographics. Take it from the far-left Brennan Center, which birthed this scheme: To build a permanent Democrat majority, we must bring “millions of new voters onto the rolls through a modernized registration system — starting in 2010.”

A secret strategy memo from 2015 asks mega-donors to fund “large-scale, multi-year voter registration programs” focused on “underrepresented” groups to “fundamentally reshape the electorate in as many as 13 states” — by 2020.

Hence the left’s obsession with microtargeting the transgender-identified, black, college-indebted Millennial renter bloc with “civic participation” campaigns, uniformly run by faux “nonpartisan” organizations like Rock the Vote and bankrolled by multibillion-dollar philanthropies like the Ford Foundation

Along with The Federalist, my organization, Restoration News, has been one of the few groups drawing conservative attention to these partisan campaigns because they may be the biggest threat our country faces. We estimate that the left has access to upwards of $500 million each year just to register new Democrats, and that’s only counting the tax-exempt nonprofits. 

These voter registration groups — like Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight Action — collectively reported more than $1.3 billion in revenues for 2021 alone. In contrast, the right spends so little registering new Republicans that no one’s bothered adding it up; it may be as low as 1 percent of the left’s vast wealth. 

The most staggering thing is that this disparity went almost entirely unnoticed until 2020. With an army like that, it’s no wonder Democrats were able to drive Democrat turnout in Georgia and Arizona to astronomical levels — the surprise is that Republicans weren’t further behind than they were.

This was supposed to be the left’s long march to victory. What they couldn’t count on was Donald Trump driving millions of new voters into the Republican ranks. Now even diehard “progressives” are balking at spending $1,200 per new Democrat voter, according to The Washington Post, since Trump expanded the GOP base with so many working-class and nonwhite voters.

That kept the GOP competitive; now we need to strike back. It’s time to start paying attention to your enemy because the next stage in that fight — automatic, state-mandated voter registration — is already here.

Birth of an Activist Campaign

Why wait for Americans to register to vote when the state will do it for them at taxpayers’ expense? 

That’s the impetus behind automatic voter registration (AVR), the next evolution in a 15-year-old scheme to mass-register new Democrat voters. Under traditional rules, Americans register to vote under their own initiative. AVR, with some variations, transforms that opt-in system to an opt-out system by adding individuals to the voter rolls when they interact with the government — say, changing your address at the DMV.

In Virginia — where Democrats made enacting AVR a priority after taking a trifecta in 2019 — that’s as harmless as prompting DMV customers to register to vote or decline. But in Alaska, any resident who applies for a Permanent Fund Dividend from the state is automatically registered to vote unless they opt out. 

In the past, impatient Democrats have settled for the former system but only to get them closer to the latter. Shortly after Democrats retook control of Virginia’s General Assembly last November, they pushed an AVR “update” bill to register anyone who renews their driver’s license with the DMV. 

Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia have adopted some form of AVR since 2015. This didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen conscientiously. Before 2009, hardly anyone even discussed the policy. Data from Google and Lexis Nexis show almost no online references until 2015 when the pro-AVR campaign began in earnest. From 2000–2016, Lexis reported 2,700 media references to the policy. Since 2016 it’s grown to more than 17,000.  

The Stupid Party vs. the Evil Party

Of the 24 states with AVR, 17 of them are the result of partisan Democrat bills, three from ballot initiatives (beginning with Alaska) funded by “dark money” groups, three from DMV administrative rule changes, and one from sheer executive fiat.

In most instances, unified Democrat majorities rammed through AVR bills while Republican legislators divided and bickered. Back in 2017-2018, in three states, liberal or plain wimpy Republican governors — Bruce Rauner, R-Ill.,  Larry Hogan, R-Md., and Charlie Baker, R-Mass., — eagerly signed AVR bills into law to leftist applause, or failed to veto them in Hogan’s case.

In Georgia, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp made Stacey Abrams’ job easier by adopting AVR in 2016 through the DMV. That added 681,000 new voters in three years. The Brennan Center, which masterminded the national AVR push, crows that 94 percent more voters registered in Georgia because of AVR. “Without [AVR], Georgia would have registered 6,279 voters weekly in 2017,” the group wrote. With it, “Georgia registered an average of 12,160 voters a week.”

The single exception to this trend was West Virginia, where many Democrats voted against a Republican AVR bill — because it also mandated photo ID requirements to vote.

In other words, just when the right needed to be most united against the Democrat phalanx, Republicans were in complete disarray or blissfully unaware of the stealth campaign spreading across the country — or actively helping the Democrats lock them out of power for good.

In September 2023, Democrat Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro bypassed the Republican legislature altogether and poofed AVR into existence via executive order, bragging that automatically registering Pennsylvanians who renew their driver’s license will magically “promote election security.” 

When outraged Republican lawmakers sued for usurping the legislature’s constitutional authority to direct elections, Federalist Society Judge Jennifer P. Wilson simply dismissed their case.

“Let today’s ruling be another reminder that taking legal advice from Donald Trump is never a winning strategy,” the imperious Shapiro sneered. Reports suggest voter registration has risen 65 percent in this critical swing state since September 2023. Which party do you suppose is best prepared to tap those new voters with ballot harvesting and GOTV drives?

Bloating Voter Rolls

To date, Democrats have scored these victories mainly in blue states like Illinois and New Jersey. Beginning in 2019, savvy congressional Democrats began featuring AVR mandates for all states in every congressional major election bill: the 2019 “Voting Rights Advancement Act,” 2021 “For the People Act,” and 2023 “Freedom to Vote Act,” with more to follow in 2024. 

But for a few states, the left has turned to its vast “dark money” machines to fuel ballot initiatives meant to bypass Republican lawmakers.

Alaska was the first target in 2016 with Measure 1, which was pushed by the local AFL-CIO, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), NAACP, League of Women Voters, and Senate squish Lisa Murkowski.

The left spent $1.4 million pushing “yes” on Measure 1, which passed 65–35 percent. The “no” campaign’s budget: $0.

Funding came from the National Education Association and New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) charity run by the D.C. consultancy Arabella Advisors. Arabella heads a multibillion-dollar political machine that specializes in passing through contributions from anonymous mega-donors to political causes on the left. 

More than 100,000 new voters have been automatically registered since the initiative went into effect in 2017 at the cost of $1.3 million to taxpayers. Just 29,000 individuals have opted out. Because Alaska declares party affiliation at the time of registration, huge numbers of individuals automatically registered through the Permanent Fund are tallied as “undeclared,” the category with the lowest level of election turnout. As of this writing, the state reports nearly 591,000 registered voters, 263,000 of whom (45 percent) are undeclared.

The result is voter rolls dramatically bloated with low-propensity, politically tuned-out voters. Most were registered, perhaps unwittingly, because they applied for a Permanent Fund Dividend check from the state, which can be as high as $1,500 — hardly “civic participation” in action.

“It’s one reason why our voter rolls are so hard to clean,” Must Read Alaska editor Suzanne Downing, who heads the state’s top conservative news outlet, told me. Downing was one of the few who warned in 2016 that Measure 1 would, “in time, [create] an underground commodity market, where ballots are the currency that special interest groups find a way to control.”

That’s hard to argue with, considering how influential left-wing “dark money” groups have been in enacting ranked-choice voting, opposing a state convention to reform the Permanent Fund, and electing the first Democrat congresswoman, Mary Peltola, in 50 years to a state that broke for Trump by 10 points in 2020.

“Alaska has a boom-or-bust economy and highly mobile population, with lots of seasonal workers and military or people who stay for just a year or two before moving south,” Downing explained via email. “When people apply for a Permanent Fund dividend and are automatically registered to vote, they may not even realize it, because the provision to opt out is not obvious. Many military members also tend to hang onto their Alaska residency even when stationed elsewhere so they can continue receiving a dividend check.”

“All of this makes it very hard to keep up with the voter rolls,” she continued. “Even though the Division of Elections cleans the voter rolls every winter, the rolls swell up again after March 31, when dividend applications are due, and we get a whole new batch of newly registered voters who may become targets for ballot harvesting or voter fraud efforts.”

Two more states have since enacted AVR laws following the Alaska ballot initiative model. Michigan’s Proposal 3 in 2018 implemented AVR alongside no-excuse absentee voting and Election Day registration — similarly pushed by the NAACP, ACLU, United Auto Workers union, Sierra Club, and the Bernie Sanders-aligned socialist group Our Revolution. 

As in Alaska, the left outspent the ill-organized right by $2 million, most of it from the ACLU. 

Nevada’s AVR push began as a Democrat bill that was vetoed in 2017 by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval before going to the public in 2018 as Question 5. Again the left outspent the right — this time by a stunning $10 million, 62 percent of which came from the Arabella network’s Sixteen Thirty Fund. Another $1 million came from Democrat mega-donor George Marcus, who later hosted a fundraiser for Joe Biden’s flagging 2020 presidential campaign.

Start Fighting Back

All these are but the beginning of sorrows if conservatives don’t get serious about rolling back AVR. With a win rate like that, what’s to stop leftists from running a similar initiative in Arizona, Ohio, Florida, or Utah?

Remember that the whole point of AVR laws is to boost Democrats’ robust get-out-the-vote and ballot-harvesting operations by saving them resources currently spent on voter registration. In Maryland, for instance, Democratic lawmakers are working to expand the state’s AVR law to include “formerly incarcerated Marylanders” the minute they leave prison — 86,000 each year. Imagine the effect that’d have in, say, neighboring Virginia or contested Georgia.

Speaking of Georgia, you can’t credit the state party for much these days, but in this, at least local Republicans are finally getting wise to the left’s schemes. In February, Republican lawmakers quietly introduced a bill to flip DMV registrations from opt-out to opt-in, which largely (though not completely) defangs AVR.

“There needs to be some conscious decision of the Georgia voter saying, ‘I wish to ensure I’m registered in Georgia,’” bill sponsor Max Burns said.

He’s right on the money. It’s time other Republicans take heed and take the initiative — if not to do the right thing, then to save their parties from annihilation. 


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