"Under the federal Motor Voter Act, which went into effect in 1995, states must offer to register any eligible citizen who seeks a new driver’s license or public assistance," Beitsch writes. "But in many states, the law hasn’t fulfilled its potential, in part because the process often trips up would-be applicants and many state workers don’t consider it a high priority." Critics, such as New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie," say connecting registration to driver’s licenses, which are available to people who are not U.S. citizens, opens the process to fraud."
Advocates say automatic registration is one way to get more people to the polls. Other ways are online registration, which is currently available in 33 states, and same-day registration, available in 13 states, Beitsch notes.