Modernizing Voter Registration

Boosting Voter Registration: New Data from Delaware

Building off of previous data from Colorado, new data out of Delaware confirms that upgrading to secure automatic voter registration (SAVR) can significantly boost eligible voter registration rates.

June 6, 2024
Neal Ubriani and Amy Hamblin
Institute for Responsive Government and NextGen Policy

Executive Summary

This report analyzes the impact of Delaware’s recent upgrade from a Partial Automatic Voter Registration (PAVR) system to the most robust form of the policy, Secure Automatic Voter Registration (SAVR). Delaware is one of ten states, in addition to Washington, D.C., that have adopted SAVR, a fully automated system for registering eligible people when they interact with state agencies like the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). It is only the second state behind Colorado to release data on its transition from PAVR to SAVR. Thus, Delaware serves as an important case study on the impact and benefits of upgrading voter registration systems.

With SAVR, eligible individuals interacting with the DMV automatically have their information shared with election officials, who register the voter and mail them a letter providing an opportunity to decline registration. Existing research has found that SAVR is substantially more effective at registering new voters and updating registrations than Partial AVR (PAVR) systems which are currently used by 15 states. With PAVR, individuals can decline registration within the DMV transaction. Research also finds that SAVR increases eligible voter turnout relative to PAVR and can save substantial time and money for DMV and election officials.

New data from Delaware confirms the strong impact of SAVR since its launch in June 2023, which built on an already very effective PAVR system. Since the switch from PAVR to SAVR, new registrations have increased by 26.1% at the Delaware DMV, with only 1.4% of newly registered voters using the post-transaction mailer to decline registration. Thanks to SAVR, Delaware is reaching substantially more eligible voters interacting with the DMV. These results validate the arguments made by the coalition advocating for the upgrade, which included the ACLU of Delaware, Common Cause Delaware, the League of Women Voters of Delaware, and the Delaware Chapter of the NAACP.

Delaware’s experience provides further evidence that when voter registration is fully streamlined, more eligible people are added to the rolls and have the opportunity to participate in our democracy. SAVR is a powerful reform that can bring thousands more people onto the voter rolls in a smaller state like Delaware, and millions more nationally, well in advance of election day, all while streamlining DMV license and ID transactions. In removing unnecessary obstacles to voting, SAVR facilitates political participation and lays the foundation for a more representative and inclusive democracy.

Download our full paper below to read our full findings.