Voting rights are the bedrock of democracy, but in many parts of the country, those rights are being eroded. In the aftermath of the 2020 election, while 25 states have enacted laws to improve access to the ballot, 18 states have enacted 30 laws making it harder to vote.
Policies encouraging citizens to register to vote when they file their income tax returns could play a crucial part in the protection and expansion of ballot access nationally. Properly implemented, voter registration at tax time has the capacity to augment existing ballot access policies and counteract or even reverse voter suppression policies as they apply to registration.
The following report presents the results of two rounds of field experiments conducted during the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, that tested the efficacy of a program offering voter registration to lower-income people filing their income taxes through nonprofit Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites. It then reviews possible routes to broad implementation of tax-time voter registration through voluntary channels, at the state level, and via federal action.