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Past Event

Filer Voter: Linking tax filing to voter registration

Co-hosted by Governance Studies and the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center

Past Event

Over 150 million households file their taxes every year. What if tax filers, like those renewing their driver’s license or visiting public assistance agencies, were given the opportunity to register to vote? Innovative research by Brookings Senior Fellow Vanessa Williamson suggests that providing voter registration materials to tax filers can substantially increase registration rates, especially among demographics that have traditionally been underrepresented in the electorate. Since 2010, 25 states have adopted policies that make it harder for eligible citizens to vote. Even in states that have recently eased voter registration requirements, or moved toward automatic voter registration, some citizens may still fall through the cracks. Linking two fundamental civic responsibilities–voting and taxpaying–has the potential to increase democratic participation and government accountability. On April 2, Williamson released a report on her project, “The Filer Voter experiment: How effective is voter registration at tax time?”. The report details the effect of voter registration campaigns conducted at nonprofit tax preparation sites in Ohio and Texas during the 2018 tax season. After a presentation of her findings, a panel discussed the report. The conversation assessed the effectiveness of conducting voter registration drives at sites providing free income-tax preparation, how lower-income households are affected by the federal income tax, and how social policy can encourage or discourage civic engagement. Following the conversation, speakers answered questions from the audience. This event was co-hosted by the Governance Studies program at Brookings and the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.

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