Encouraging sportsmen’s involvement in the political process is an important method for protecting our outdoor heritage. Increased public participation, particularly at the ballot box, ensures that hunters and anglers are represented, which strengthens the ability of the sportsmen’s community to collectively defeat anti-sportsmen policy objectives. Facilitating voter registration for sportsmen and women, at the time they purchase hunting and fishing licenses, is one way to increase the number of sportsmen that are registered to vote.
Encouraging sportsmen’s involvement in the political process is an important aspect of protecting our outdoor heritage. Increased public participation, particularly at the ballot box, ensures that hunters and anglers are represented, strengthening the ability of the sportsmen’s community to collectively defeat anti-sportsmen policy objectives. Facilitating voter registration for sportsmen and women, at the time they purchase hunting and fishing licenses, is one way to increase the number of registered sportsmen and women voters.
The issue surrounding voter registration was introduced at the inaugural National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) Annual Meeting in 2004 by a Georgia legislator and subsequently presented as a NASC issue brief during the 2005 legislative sessions. Since that time, sportsmen’s caucuses in Florida and Virginia have passed similar legislation while attempts have been made in at least eight other states.
- “Sportsmen/Voter” legislation is based on the “Motor/Voter” concept, which provides opportunities to register to vote when applying for a driver’s license, that has gained traction throughout the nation to provide another pathway for citizens to register to participate in the democratic process.
- Some states allow the use of a hunting or fishing license as proof of eligibility to vote. Therefore, allowing for the opportunity to register to vote when applying for these licenses should be made available.
- In January 2013, voter registration bill S 2801 was introduced in New York. S 2801 passed the Senate on June 3, 2013, and was later introduced to the Assembly as A 4903, though it subsequently died in committee. In February of 2016, voter registration bill A 4982 was introduced but failed to make it out of committee.
- Kentucky voter registration bill S 220 was introduced and subsequently passed the Senate in March of 2014 but failed to pass the House.
- In 2018, South Dakota introduced HB 1156, to consider voter registration for hunting and fishing license applications. It did not advance.
- In January 2020, New Jersey introduced A 160, A 2255, and S 679, which would require voter registration forms to be made available at the time of purchase of a hunting, fishing, or trapping license. None of the bills advanced.
- In 2021, Arizona passed SB 1819, which instructed the Arizona game and fish department to add voter registration to hunting and fishing license applications.
The following states have successfully passed and enacted voter registration legislation using the language below:
- Georgia Title 21, chapter 2, article 6, § 21-2-221.1: “Each application to obtain a resident hunting, fishing, or trapping license issued by the Department of Natural Resources pursuant to Chapter 2 of Title 27 and made by an applicant who is within six months of such applicant’s eighteenth birthday or older shall also serve as an application for voter registration unless the applicant declines to register to vote through specific declination or by failing to sign the voter registration application.”
- Florida Title 28, chapter 379, part 6, § 379.352: “At each location where hunting, fishing, or trapping licenses or permits are sold, voter registration applications shall be displayed and made available to the public. Subagents shall ask each person who applies for a hunting, fishing, or trapping license or permit if he or she would like a voter registration application and may provide such application to the license or permit applicant but shall not assist such persons with voter registration applications or collect complete or incomplete voter registration applications.”
- Virginia Title 24.2, chapter 4, § 24.2-416.3: “The State Board shall provide a reasonable number of mail voter registration application forms to each agent of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries authorized to sell hunting or fishing licenses in Virginia. The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries shall assist the State Board by providing a list of its agents appointed to sell hunting and fishing licenses in Virginia and by instructing its agents to make the mail voter registration application forms available to persons purchasing hunting or fishing licenses.”
- New York NY SB 5303“Allows any qualified person to apply for voter registration and enrollment by application made with an application for any hunting or fishing license.”
- New Jersey NJ AB 160: “to be distributed at each agency or office to each person appearing in person thereat to apply for a hunting, fishing, or trapping license
To ensure the voice of sportsmen and women across the country is protected and well represented in policy-making decisions, legislators and elected officials should explore and support opportunities to adopt similar legislation in their states. Each caucus leadership team should determine the best means of action in their respective state and become familiar with similar legislation considered elsewhere. Please reference the laws mentioned above for additional information about components of the legislation that give these voter registration instruments added flexibility.