Commentary

12/21/2012  by Alexandra Bjerg

Senate Bill 44 would further expand Online Voter Registration in California


Image courtesy of the University of Minnesota

Registering to vote for the November 6th election was made easier than ever this year thanks to the launch of Online Voter Registration (OVR). More than 1 million Californians used the state’s new online system, helping set a new state record for voter registration. 

Yet, although more than 18 million Californians are now registered to vote, Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) says that’s not enough. Yee, author of the legislation that brought about OVR, introduced a bill last week designed to expand the system.  

“There are more than 5.5 million eligible Californians who are not registered to vote,” Yee said in a statement. “Senate Bill 44 will help us reach these individuals and significantly increase the voter rolls.”

If approved, SB 44 would require each website maintained by the state to include a link on the homepage directing visitors to the Secretary of State’s online voter registration website.   

“The use of online voter registration was overwhelming, but we need to continue to find new ways to get as many citizens as possible involved in our democracy,” said Yee. “When Californians access their state government via the internet, we should encourage them to vote and have their voice heard at the ballot box.”

According to Political Data Inc. (PDI), the state’s largest election data firm, folks who registered to vote online were more likely to cast a ballot. Their preliminary analysis shows that voter turnout was significantly higher among users of the online system.  

For example, turnout for online registrants in Orange County was 82 percent, ten percentage points higher than the overall county average. 

Although PDI hasn’t completed crunching numbers for all 58 counties, ones such as Sacramento and Fresno experienced similar spikes in ballot casting of those who used OVR versus those who did not. 

“Online voter registration is a game changer for California, and increasing awareness of the online system by attracting more eyeballs to the website increases the likelihood that more eligible voters register to vote,” said Caroline Bruister, Program Director at California Forward. “Ensuring all voices are heard by encouraging participation should be a priority for our great state.”

It’s unclear if including a link to the online voter registration system on all state websites would dramatically boost the state’s voter rolls or increase voter participation, but data from this cycle is certainly encouraging int his respect. 

But what we do know is that a truly representative democracy depends upon full participation of all residents. Increasing access and removing barriers to the voting booth benefits all Californians. 

Categories: Government

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