California Will Now Automatically Register Citizens to Vote

By Kenrya Rankin Oct 12, 2015

Starting in 2016, every eligible California citizen who either renews a driver’s license or applies for a new one will be automatically registered to vote, unless they object. Secretary of State Alex Padilla says that there are 6.6 million Californians who can vote, but have not registered.

“The New Motor Voter Act will make our democracy stronger by removing a key barrier to voting for millions of California citizens,” Padilla—who advocated for the bill in response to the state’s 42 percent voter turnout in 2014—told reporters on Saturday. “Citizens should not be required to opt in to their fundamental right to vote. We do not have to opt in to other rights, such as free speech or due process.”

The law will go into effect on January 1, but the registration process will not begin until June, when a new database is expected to be completed—just in time for the state’s presidential primary election. It could have a particularly large impact on the registration status for people of color. The UC Davis Center for Regional Change reports that just 62.8 percent of Latino and 50.7 percent of Asian-American residents are registered to vote. 

Governor Jerry Brown also signed a bill that empowers county elections officials to offer conditional voter registration and provisional voting at satellite offices for 14 days before Election Day, as well as another that lets people drop off vote-by-mail ballots at secure boxes in their community.

(H/t LA Times)