Clinton Signs ‘Motor-Voter’ Law Making Registration Easier
President Clinton signed into law Thursday a landmark measure requiring states to ease voting registration, ending a hard-fought battle by Democrats and advocates for young, disabled and minority Americans.
The “motor-voter” law requires states to allow registration by mail, as well as when citizens apply for or renew a driver’s license, visit welfare and other government agencies or stop by a military recruiting office.
“Voting is an empty promise unless people vote,” Clinton said at the White House signing ceremony. “Now, there is no longer the excuse of the difficulty of registration.”
Whether the new law will result in increased voter turnout is a subject of debate. Clinton said: “Motor-voter works at registering voters, and people who register vote.” States with similar laws, however, generally have experienced higher turnout in the first election after enactment but no long-term climb.
Critics have argued that some provisions invite fraud, namely one that prohibits purging a name from voting rolls solely because the individual has not voted for an extended time. Under the new law, names could be purged only at an individual’s request, by proof of death, because of criminal conviction or mental incapacity or if the voter moves to a new jurisdiction.
Roughly 65% of eligible Americans are registered to vote. Supporters of the new law predict that number will top 90% within a few years because of easier registration. States must comply with the law by Jan. 1, 1995.
Young people are likely to benefit most from the new rules.