MEMO from Frmr Republican SOS: Automatic voter registration will keep New Jersey’s elections secur

TO:                Interested parties

FROM:          Trey Grayson, Former Republican Secretary of the Commonwealth of Kentucky

DATE:           April 10, 2018

RE:                 Automatic voter registration will keep New Jersey’s elections secure

In 2016, Russian hackers used a complex and highly sophisticated web of strategies to infiltrate and attempt to manipulate United States elections. The status quo is not sufficient; we need to protect our democracy and secure our elections. Our moment requires public policy that will make our elections more modern and secure, which is why I am lending my name in support of automatic voter registration in New Jersey.

As a two-term Secretary of State in Kentucky, chair of the Republican Association of Secretaries of State, and president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, I focused my leadership on government innovation and election modernization. I understood that bringing our elections into the 21st century would keep private voter information and ballot results safe and secure.

That’s why I led the movement for paper ballots in Kentucky and worked with our neighboring states of Tennessee and South Carolina to become the first three states in the country to securely compare voter registration lists across state lines.

I have continued to work on these issues after leaving office, including during my time as Director of Harvard’s Institute of Politics, when I served on the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration, and my continued service on the board of the non-profit Democracy Works, which works to build the tools needed to upgrade the infrastructure of our democracy and improve the voting experience for voters and election officials alike.

I’m lending my voice now because I believe that it is my responsibility as a former chief election official to speak out and promote reforms when our elections are at risk. It is with this intention that I lend my name in support of New Jersey’s automatic voter registration legislation.


In many counties across the country, election machines are over twenty years old. Most states still require registrants to fill out paper forms to be on the voter rolls, and there is no coordination between databases at a state’s various agency offices.

Additionally, American elections are under attack. Russians and other hackers targeted sensitive voter information in 21 states during the 2016 election cycle – and they are already at work for this year’s midterms. Indeed, these offenses were confirmed by the Trump administration’s Department of Homeland Security. Knowing their motivations to manipulate our democracy should spur legislators across the country to action to protect voter information and election outcomes.

The facts: How AVR works

AVR is effective because the state agencies with jurisdiction use the latest technology to keep its data secure, and they use it more efficiently.

When a resident conducts a transaction with a state agency like getting a driver’s license or filling out a marriage license, they are generally required to provide information like name, address, birth date, and citizenship status, which are all personal identification information required to vote.

AVR functions by securely transferring information for eligible voters between qualifying agencies like the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Secretary of State’s office. Once the Secretary of State’s office has the necessary information, each record is checked and verified for voting eligibility requirements. New entries for individuals already in the database will be replaced with the new information.

The New Jersey bill, A-2014/S-481, will protect our democracy by ensuring that New Jersey’s elections and voter rolls are secure. AVR will also improve New Jersey voters’ access to the ballot box – but only those who are eligible. However, New Jersey citizens will have an opportunity to opt-out of registering to vote if they so choose.

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, the only agency required to comply with AVR’s secure data transfer procedures, has already issued statements of support.

The Benefits

It increases list accuracy through a verification process so that only the voters who should be on the rolls are listed in the voter database. Address updates automatically transfer from state agencies to election administrators so that the database can be continuously updated with the most up-to-date voter information.

The process both cuts out human error that can come from updating the rolls manually and saves clerks time so that they can focus their energy on other security procedures that require human attention. Not to mention that accurate lists mean less potential for manipulation.

Studies suggest that AVR also saves states money. It costs three cents to securely process an automatic registration, in contrast to $3.64 for paper forms. With the expected cost savings, election officials can reinvest in additional security technologies that will protect our elections.

The secure data transfer system allows updates to our voter databases, including system backups. In the case of a breach or failure, these backups are the way that clerks and election administrators can pinpoint attempted interference and restore order.

AVR is bipartisan

Smart, bipartisan election security proposals is too rare these days, which makes automatic voter registration all the more appealing. The bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration, on which I served, strongly recommended such a seamless integration of data between DMVs and election offices in 2014. Since then, this common-sense reform has passed in deep red states like Utah, West Virginia and Alaska, along with blue states like Rhode Island and Oregon.

I have spoken with other election officials, county clerks, and state agency representatives across the country – including in New Jersey – and AVR has wide support, as well as a well-established route for implementation.

Conclusion: Our Modernization Moment in New Jersey

Election security is not a partisan issue. It is a patriotic issue. That’s why I am speaking up in support for AVR legislation in New Jersey and across the country.

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