Automatic Voter Registration in California
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a transformative bill that could add millions of new voters to the rolls in the most populous state in the country. Other states should follow.
With Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature, California has become the second state to adopt automatic registration, an exciting reform that is gaining momentum across the country. California’s law has the potential to add millions of new voters to the rolls through automatic voter registration. State officials estimate that with approximately 6.6 million eligible but unregistered voters, the law could dramatically boost California’s registration rate, which ranked 38th in the country in 2012. California’s legislature is the third to pass automatic registration, based on a Brennan Center proposal.
Automatic registration makes two transformative changes to voter registration. Eligible citizens who interact with government agencies are registered to vote unless they decline, and agencies transfer voter-registration information electronically to election officials. By giving voters the opportunity to decline in person during their DMV interactions, California’s law will create a seamless, paperless process that will be more convenient and less error-prone for voters, DMV staff, and election officials.
In the lead-up to the signing of California’s bill into law, the Brennan Center and others encouraged Gov. Brown to heed his own call, during his 1992 Democratic National Convention speech, for the government to register every American through the use of technology.
The governor also received scores of letters from organizations, legislators, and constituents urging him to sign automatic voter registration into law.
- California Democratic Congressional Delegation
- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris
- California Association of Clerks and Election Officials
- Alameda County Board of Supervisors
- Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law
- California Democratic Party
- California Environmental Justice Alliance
- California Labor Federation
- California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG)
- California School Employees Association
- California State Council of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
- California Teachers Association
- California Teamsters Public Affairs Council
- Center on Race, Poverty, & the Environment
- Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO District 9
- League of Women Voters of California
- Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
- Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento
- Mayor Kevin McKeown of Santa Monica
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- Representative Barbara Lee
- Sierra Club
- State Building and Construction Trades Council
- The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Election Initiatives
Wide press coverage surrounded the California legislature’s monumental step forward in passing this bill.
- New York Times Editorial: Entwining Two Rights in California: Voting and Driving
- Washington Post Editorial: California is Making it Easier to Vote. Why Aren't Other States?
- San Jose Mercury News Editorial: Pass Padilla's Super Motor Voter Registration Bill
- Sacramento Bee Editorial: Pass 'Motor Voter,' But Don't Stop There
- Boston Globe Editorial: Making Voting Rights Automatic
- The Daily Beast: Governor Jerry Brown Should Sign Historic Voting Bill (Myrna Pérez)
- The Huffington Post: New Motor Voter: A Step Forward for California and Democracy (Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and Secretary of State Alex Padilla)
- The Huffington Post: Waiting for Brown: Sign California Voting Reform (Michael Waldman)
- Los Angeles Times: Will California Lead the Nation on Voting Rights? (Ari Berman)
- Los Angeles Times: Death, Drones, Drugs -- and Other Legislation That Needs the Governor's Blessing (Mariel Garza)
- The Nation: How Automatic Voter Registration Can Transform American Politics (Ari Berman)
- The Huffington Post: Clearing Away Barriers to Voter Registration (Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas)
- MSNBC: California Set to Automatically Register Millions of Voters
- Associated Press: California Voters to be Automatically Registered at DMV
- NPR: California Becomes 2nd State to Automatically Register Voters
- The New York Times: California Law Will Automatically Register Drivers to Vote
Thousands of citizens urged the governor to sign AB 1461 through petition drives organized by grassroots civic groups: