Give all new renters a voter registration form when they move in

Being a voter just got a bit easier in the city of Minneapolis. In March, a new local ordinance went into effect that requires landlords to provide or email voter registration forms to tenants when they first move in. Given the hectic craziness and hassles involved in changing homes, the new tenant notification policy means the people of Minneapolis will now be less likely to miss out on their chance to register and vote in upcoming elections. It will also help the state maintain cleaner, more up-to-date voter registration lists. As CityLab explained in its reporting:

couple-moving-in

But will they remember to update their voter registration after moving to their new address?

The idea behind the law is that people tend to forget to update their voter registration when they move to a new place. (This is one reason that jurisdictions end up with inflated voter lists, with inaccurate counts of how many people live and vote in a district.) Having landlords put registration forms into the hands of their new tenants is a practical way for making sure local election administrators have accurate voter information.

“We knew that a move would trigger a registration requirement, so the question became, ‘How do we know when someone moves?’” says Jacob Frey, the Minneapolis City Council member who introduced the ordinance. “Generally speaking, we don’t—but the new landlord certainly does.”

The city of Minneapolis provides the registration packet, which come in English, Spanish, Hmong, and Somali languages and can be emailed or handed to tenants in print form. (Frey said he looked into possible complications involving immigrant tenants who might be ineligible to vote and said theinstructions written in the materials are clear about who can and who cannot register.)

Although automatic voter registration is the “gold standard of modernized registration,” according to the Brennan Center for Justice, only four states have enacted the policy so far. Minneapolis’s new tenant notification law is one idea that cities can implement in the meantime to proactively boost citizen participation in elections. For more information, see “Will Minneapolis’s New ‘Renter-Voter’ Bill Increase Turnout?” CityLab (2016); “Tenant Notification of Voter Registration,” Minneapolis City Hall (2016); and “Automatic Voter Registration and Modernization in the States,” Brennan Center for Justice (2016).