January 2018

The Virginia DMV and Department of Elections create an electronic voter registration system

For the past two decades, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has handled voter registration applications, and the process has been entirely paper-based. In July 2016, the DMV and the Department of Elections (ELECT) released their electronic “Motor Voter” (EMV) system in order to reduce paper voter registration applications.

Not only is it a greener process, but the new EMV system has the potential to improve efficiencies, customer experiences and data integrity. “It has really benefited everyone—the customers, both the DMV and ELECT, and the entire voter registration process,” says Sandy Jack, director of Data Management Services at the Virginia DMV.

How Does it Work?

If a Virginia resident is completing a qualifying transaction—such as updating his or her driver’s license or ID card information—either on the DMV’s website,, or in-person at a DMV customer service center using a payment card terminal touchscreen, his or her voter registration status will be determined.

If they have not yet registered to vote, they will be offered the opportunity to apply by confirming their personal information and answering relevant questions. If they’ve already registered, they can choose to update their voter information.

Once they have confirmed their personal information and completed the voter registration questions, the responses will be sent as a package to ELECT and then to local registrars to be processed electronically.

Customers may complete simple updates to their existing voter registration address on either digital platform as well. Or if they don’t want to register to vote, they don’t need to.

A Real Time-Saver

The biggest benefit overall is the efficiency of the process for customers and both the DMV and ELECT. “Everything is now immediate and in real-time,” says Jack.

Residents no longer need to fill out a paper application nor complete the registration through the mail, which is a huge time-saver and will only enhance the customer experience. (However, they may still opt for a paper-based application if they prefer.)

For the DMV, the decreased number of paper applications to sort and mail has significantly reduced the amount of staff time spent on auditing applications each day. Now each electronic transaction is logged automatically, making it easier to process and track.

It will also be easier for ELECT to check voters’ information with the touch of a button should any questions arise.

HOW to Get Started

Overall, it was a team effort between the DMV and ELECT to conceptualize the EMV. “It has really reimagined the entire concept of the transfer of data between the DMV and ELECT,” says Jack.

Her advice to other jurisdictions interested in building a similar electronic voter registration system: “Start early, meet frequently and really think it through with your partner, and make sure it’s something you both agree on.”