By KYW community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Several Pennsylvania lawmakers today joined voting rights advocates at the National Constitution Center to announce a new bill that they say would move toward universal voter registration in the commonwealth.

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Still, the group is prepared for an uphill battle.

“We will no longer play defense,” said state senator Vincent Hughes (D-Phila.), who says he was inspired by the anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Ala. to introduce Senate Bill 806, which would automatically register eligible voters.

A voter registration would be completed whenever a person applies for a driver’s license, applies to get benefits or a birth certificate, or enters a state-run college or university — unless the person “opts out.”

“They will be notified they are registered to vote, and they will have an opportunity to opt out,” Hughes said today.  “They will then have an opportunity to choose their party.  If they don’t choose a party, they will be categorized as independent.”

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SB 806 models a similar law in Oregon, and expands a current Pennsylvania law which allows citizens to register to vote when applying for a state ID or a license at Penndot.

Hughes acknowledges the chances of getting the bill passed in both the Republican-controlled state Senate and House is slim, but he says the gesture is not just symbolic.

“We’re going to put it out there, we’re going to gather all the people, we’re going to advocate,” he said.

The NAACP, the ACLU, and other civil rights groups have expressed support for the bill.


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