Outline of Pennsylvania and "I voted" stickers

Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Right-wing media launch anti-democratic attacks on Pennsylvania’s automatic voter registration

Right-wing media continue their election misinformation crusade as another state makes it easier for residents to vote

Automatic voter registration, a secure process used to increase voting accessibility and maintain accurate voter rolls, is being attacked by right-wing media after Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro announced that the state will begin automatically registering voters at the DMV.

    • On September 19, Shapiro announced that Pennsylvania will start automatically registering eligible residents to vote when they get a new driver’s license or ID card at the DMV, rather than asking if they want to fill out a voter registration form. The practice, known as automatic voter registration or AVR, allows potential new voters to “opt out” rather than “opt in.” [NBC News, 9/19/23; Spotlight PA, 9/19/23]
    • Automatic voter registration, which is now used by 24 states, has been found to decrease fraud, make voter rolls more accurate, and increase the accessibility of voting. Research shows that “in making voting lists more complete and accurate, states may make it easier for some population groups, especially minorities and poorer citizens, to vote.” [The Washington Post, 9/23/22]
    • Pennsylvania’s system will not provide non-citizens or other ineligible residents the option to register to vote. Republican Secretary of State Al Schmidt stated that “he’s confident that the system is fixed to ensure that those ineligible to vote will be internally flagged and will not be offered the voter registration screens.” [The Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/19/23]
    • Former President Donald Trump blasted Pennsylvania’s decision to implement AVR on Truth Social, claiming that it “will be a disaster for our Nation, which is being destroyed by these Lunatics, Marxists, & Fascists, whose only real ability is to CHEAT on Elections.” He also wrote that AVR will be “a disaster for the Election of Republicans, including your favorite President, ME!” [Truth Social, 9/25/23]
  • Right-wing media falsely claimed that AVR could increase voter fraud and that Democrats are using it to rig elections

    • On Elon Musk’s X platform (formerly Twitter), Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton posted, “Leftist Pennsylvania governor decides to ‘automatically’ register ‘voters’ -- a legally-dubious and surefire way to make it easier for ineligible individuals to vote illegally.” [Twitter/X, 9/19/23]
    • Right-wing podcaster Kyle Becker posted, “This is unconstitutional. It is 2020 all over again. Either fight this now or be prepared to lose another election!” He also quoted Trump’s claim that “the Democrats are trying to steal Pennsylvania again by doing the ‘automatic voter registration’ scam.” [Twitter/X, 10/1/23]
    • Just the News reported that Pennsylvania embracing AVR “triggers new integrity fears.” The subheadline quoted the executive director of a conservative group advocating for restricted voting laws, who falsely claimed that “recent history proves that automatic voter registration is inherently problematic.” [Just the News, 10/1/23; NPR, 8/12/22]
    • The Gateway Pundit published an article claiming, “The steal is on in Pennsylvania. … Pennsylvania turned blue in 2020 after the Democrats violated the state’s constitution and allowed vote by mail.” The article concluded, “Democrats can’t win unless they cheat.” [The Gateway Pundit, 9/19/23]
    • Interviewing Republican Senate candidate David McCormick, right-wing radio host Mark Levin called Shapiro’s announcement of AVR “an edict which is intended to harm your election chances.” Levin also told McCormick that “the Democrat ruling class in Pennsylvania is frightened of you.” [Westwood One, The Mark Levin Show, 9/29/23]
    • The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles agreed with Trump’s Truth Social post, saying, “I think Trump’s point is correct … that we have got to focus on making sure that the libs don’t rig the election again.” He then claimed that AVR will cause “a lot of people in this country who don’t care about our form of government” and “shouldn’t therefore weigh in” to cast ballots, and that opposing automatic registration will “protect the right to vote” of the “kind of person that I do want voting.” [The Daily Wire, The Michael Knowles Show, 9/27/23]
    • Fox host Laura Ingraham called Pennsylvania’s implementation of AVR “an insurance policy” for Democrats and “a Joe and Kamala job protection plan.” The chyron during the segment read “WINNING, NOT GOVERNING, IS DEMS’ ONLY CONCERN.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 9/20/23]
    • Townhall published an article titled “Automatic Voter Registration Opens Door to Voter Fraud,” which falsely claimed that AVR’s history is “filled with many documented problems.” The article compared AVR to “ordering a sundae, and having the store employees just decide you want sprinkles and nuts without asking you. … Messing with my ice cream is bad enough, but for heaven’s sake, don’t mess with my freedom to choose when or if I register to vote.” [Townhall, 10/28/23]
  • Right-wing media cited the implementation of AVR to push bigoted rhetoric and claim that the system will allow undocumented immigrants or other ineligible residents to vote

    • Fox News’ Kayleigh McEnany, Trump’s former White House press secretary, incorrectly suggested that AVR will result in “illegal immigrants … checking the box” to register to vote. Host Jesse Watters also referred to eligible residents who have not yet registered as “low-information voters.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 9/19/23]
    • Newsmax's Greg Kelly called automatic voter registration “un-American” and said that striving for universal voter turnout is bad because “Saddam Hussein had universal voter turnout. That wasn't good.” [Newsmax, Greg Kelly Reports, 9/19/23]
    • The day after Shapiro’s announcement, right-wing grifter Tomi Lahren posted, “Beware of any state that gives drivers licenses to illegal immigrants and also has automatic voter registration. This is a tool used to auto send mail in ballots willy fricken nilly and then just ‘hope’ for the best.” [Twitter/X, 9/20/23]
    • Right-wing conspiracy theorist Lara Logan posted, “Automatic voter registration is one of the easiest ways to cheat … If you are acting as if 2024 will be a real election, you are both delusional and deceived.” She also suggested “states that allow illegal immigrants to get a drivers license have another way to beef up the voter rolls - is that what the open border is for?” [Twitter/X, 9/19/23]
    • On his Fox News show, Sean Hannity asked McCormick, “What do you make of the governor, Josh Shapiro's plan to enact this automatic registration — is it possible, a lot of states have this, that illegal immigrants can get a license in Pennsylvania?” [Fox News, Hannity, 9/21/23]
    • Turning Point USA co-founder Charlie Kirk posted, “More mass mail-in ballots for Dems in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Meanwhile PA Democrats have been working for years to give illegals drivers licenses. Connect the dots.” [Twitter/X, 9/19/23]