Commentary

09/25/2012  by Alexandra Bjerg

Election day registration signed into California law by Gov. Brown

On Monday, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation, which proponents refer to as a “voter promotion bill," making it much easier to vote in the Golden State. 

“Voting—the sacred right of every citizen—should be simple and convenient,” said Gov. Brow in a press release. “While other states try to restrict voters with new laws that burden the process, California allows voters to register online—and even on Election Day.”

Assembly Bill 1436, by Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), which passed out of both houses along party-line votes earlier this year, will allow eligible California voters to register and vote up to and on Election Day. Currently, voter registration forms must be postmarked 15 days prior to any election.  

Brown’s signature adds California to the list of 9 other states and the District of Columbia as those already offering some form of election day registration (EDR). Not coincidentally, the same group leads the nation in voter participation rates. 

Proponents of the measure claim that California’s voter registration rate, which is currently at 72 percent, could potentially increase by another 5 percent once EDR takes effect. 

Although the Governor signed the bill one day prior to National Voter Registration Day (click here to find an event happening near you), EDR will not be begin until after full implementation of Vote-Cal, which is expected to launch in 2014, at the earliest. 

The authors tied implementation of EDR to the completion of Vote-Cal, the state’s federally mandated statewide voter database, in order to address concerns raised by critics regarding the potential of voter fraud.  The database will aggregate the 58 separate voter files currently maintained by the counties allowing for real-time verification of eligible voters.

Additionally, the law also raises the fine for voter fraud to $50,000, one of the highest penalties in the nation, ensuring the expansion of California’s electorate without sacrificing election integrity. 

Compared to other states, California ranks near the bottom in the percentage of eligible voters actually registered to vote. Despite the lack of a concrete start date for EDR (“sometime in the future” is a bit vague), it’s not too early to applaud the efforts of those working hard to make elections more accessible and to increase voter turnout. 

Election day voter registration is just one of many bills signed by Governor Brown designed to remove barriers to the ballot booth. Last year Governor Brown OKd the launch of online voter registration and yesterday also approved AB 2080 by Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park), allowing relatives to drop off a family member’s vote-by-mail ballot. 

“Politicians in other states have been pushing new restrictive laws and campaigns to manipulate election results for their own political gain. In signing the new Election Day Registration bill into law, Governor Brown has taken a stand for fair and accessible elections,” said Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause. 

California Forward believes we need to encourage full participation by all eligible voters, including procrastinators. Removing barriers to the electoral process and making it more inclusive will lead to a stronger and more representative democracy. “Voting brings us together as Americans, and Election Day Registration will help strengthen our communities,” said Feng. 

Categories: Democracy, Elections, Californians

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