Simon touts new automatic voter registration system

New teenage drivers are now automatically "pre-registered" to vote.

Secretary of State Steve Simon discusses Minnesota's new automatic voter registration system during a press conference June 18, 2024. (Minnesota Department of Public Safety/YouTube)

If you’ve renewed your driver’s license anytime over the last month or so, you’ve also more than likely ensured you’re registered to vote this fall.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon announced that the state’s new automatic voter registration system went online during the last week of April, and since then has “brought more than 28,000 eligible Minnesotans into our democracy.”

“For years, I’ve advocated for automatic voter registration — as a common-sense policy that will increase security and access to our already strong election system,” Simon said this week during a press conference to discuss the new system, which has been employed in 23 other states. “I am grateful for the dedicated public employees in state and local government that are bringing this system to life.”

While the new law went into effect in June of 2023, the automatic voter registration system wasn’t operational until just seven weeks ago.

Since that time, Simon says the Office of the Secretary of State, in coordination with the Department of Public Safety, has registered more than 15,000 Minnesotans to vote through the new system.

The law was one of several provisions included in the DFL-sponsored “Strengthen the Freedom to Vote Act” that passed on party lines during the 2023 legislative session. While the process may be confusing to some as the two departments coordinate and vet prospective voters for eligibility, the secretary of state has provided a flow chart explaining the process.

New teenage drivers now automatically ‘pre-registered’ to vote

More than 13,000 16- and 17-year-olds have also been automatically “pre-registered” to vote over the last seven weeks since the automatic voter registration system went online. That pre-registration provision was also included in the “Strengthen the Freedom to Vote Act,” which Simon and a number of DFLers made their top legislative priority early during the 2023 session at the Capitol. Pre-registration essentially puts teenagers not yet eligible to vote on a “pre-registration” list that rolls over to automatically register them to vote after they turn 18.

Last summer Simon toured a number of high schools across the state to promote the new pre-registration law.

Declining automatic registration takes some work

Prior to passage of the legislation, those applying for or renewing a driver’s license could already register to vote if they proactively checked a box on their application that would opt them into the system. The new law removes that step, and places the onus on the applicant to proactively decline the automatic voting registration.

Those who, for whatever reason, want to decline automatic voter registration now have to take a few extra steps to prevent that from happening. The person can decline to register that day by returning their driver’s license registration receipt to the Department of Public Safety office, or by mailing it to the appropriate county auditor at the address provided on the form indicating they decline to be automatically registered. They can also wait to receive a voter registration confirmation in the mail from local election officials that allows them to mail in an “opt out” if they wish not to be registered to vote. They are required, by law, to mail in or drop off the opt-out notice within 20 days of receiving the mailing.

As of this week, about 800 people had sought to “opt out” of the automatic registration, said Paul Linnell, deputy elections director under Simon.

“There could be any number of reasons why those individuals would opt not to register to vote,” Linnell said. “It certainly doesn’t prevent those individuals from changing their mind and choosing to register at a later date or register on Election Day.”

Simon believes the new system could result in an 80-percent decrease in in-person, Election Day voter registration.


Hank Long

Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.