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A Watershed Moment for Voter Registration

California’s transformative bill could add millions of new voters to the rolls in the most populous state in the country. Other states should follow.

  • Sophie Schuit
September 14, 2015

The California legislature just passed a bill that has the potential to add millions of new voters to the rolls. If Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signs it into law, the plan would dramatically modernize voter registration in the Golden State by replacing old-fashioned, ink-and-paper cards with a system that automatically registers eligible citizens when they visit the DMV. Automatic registration in the most populous state in the country is a watershed moment in the effort to fix our broken election system: California will be putting the responsibility for ensuring eligible citizens can vote where it should be — on the government, not the individual.

The Brennan Center explains why California’s automatic registration bill is so important, as the bill makes two very small but transformative changes. California’s legislature is one of many that have considered automatic registration, based on a Brennan Center proposal, and is the third state legislature to pass such monumental reform.

Editorial boards across the country have recognized the California Legislature’s initiative to move forward with this transformative reform. The New York Times, Washington Post, San Jose Mercury News, and Boston Globe have all called for Governor Brown to sign the bill, and Ari Berman of The Nation wrote about how automatic registration can transform American politics. At the 1992 Democratic National Convention, Governor Brown called for the government to register every American through the use of technology in his speech.