AUGUSTA — Mainers would be able to register to vote when they get or renew a driver’s license under a bill approved by the state Senate on Tuesday that creates an automatic voter registration system.

The bill, sponsored by House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, is now headed to the desk of Gov. Janet Mills for consideration.

If signed into law by Mills, the measure would allow residents to automatically register to vote when they do business with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles or other authorized state agencies.

Those old enough to vote would automatically be registered to their voting precincts based on their address when they get or renew a state-issued driver’s license or identification card.

Gideon said the measure would help increase citizen participation in government while making the voter registration process easier, more accurate and more secure.

“We know that greater participation in our democracy will make our government more responsible and make elected officials more representative of the people we serve,” Gideon said in a prepared statement. “Making that participation easier while improving the integrity and security of our elections is something we should all be able to support.”

Maine would become the 19th state to adopt an automatic voter registration process linked to its bureau of motor vehicles, often known as a motor-voter law.

Opponents of the measure have said it is unnecessary and would create a new expense for state government in Maine, which already has one of the highest voter participation rates in the country. The system would cost about $140,000 to set up, but that would be paid with federal funds available under the 2018 Help America Vote Act as part of an election security grant.

Under the measure, a voter’s record would be updated when they show proof of eligibility, including their name, address, citizenship status and signature, when interacting with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, part of the Maine Secretary of State’s Office, which also oversees voting and elections.

The bill would allow a voter to register in a specific political party. It also allows residents to opt out from registering to vote and still allows for Maine’s traditional registration process with a town or city clerk or at the polls on Election Day.

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