On Saturday Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1461 (along with 13 other voting and election bills), making California the second state to adopt automatic voter registration. Oregon did so earlier this year.
In Oregon, an estimated 300,000 voters could be added to the rolls with automatic registration. In California, the Secretary of State’s office reports that 6.6 million eligible voters are unregistered, 1.2 million in LA County alone. (LA County already has more registered voters than 42 states.) Under the new law, eligible voters will be automatically registered voters when they obtain or renew their driver license at the Department of Motor Vehicles (with the option to opt-out). Additionally, data already being collected by the DMV will be transmitted electronically to the Secretary of State–this will reduce data entry errors and streamline the process.
Automatic registration begins to shift the burden of registration from the individual to the state, and gives local election officials the opportunity to focus on voter education and outreach. This is important for California, which ranked 43rd in voter turnout last year.
In signing AB 1461 Governor Brown has stayed true to his opinion on the subject from 1992: “Every citizen in America should have not only the right but the real opportunity to vote. And it’s the responsibility of government to ensure that by registering every American. And that’s why we have to fight to see that government does the job with all its bureaucracy and its computers.”