California Considers ‘Automatic’ Voter Registration

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

In an effort to get more Californians to the polls, Secretary of State Alex Padilla is offering a new proposal that would enable “automatic” voter registration.

Imitating a new law in Oregon that allows the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to share information about potential voters with the Secretary of State’s office, Padilla told the Sacramento Bee, “If government knows who’s here, who’s 18, who’s a citizen, why go through hoops? Let’s just register folks automatically.”

Interviewed by the Statesman-Journal, he added, “One of the biggest barriers to citizen participation is the voter registration process. A new, enhanced Motor Voter law would strengthen our democracy.It would be a game changer.”

In his successful campaign for Secretary of State last year, Padilla promised to add one million more voters to the rolls; his office now estimates that almost seven million eligible voters have not registered to do so.

The DMV offices are already required by federal law to give customers the option of registering to vote. Padilla said that other state agencies that contain data that could make people eligible to vote could do the same as the DMV, adding, “I think most Californians ought to participate and would love to participate. Let’s get them on the rolls automatically and put all the resources and energy we’ve put into voter registration into voter education.”

Assemblymen Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) and Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) are joining with Padilla in his effort.