New Numbers from California Highlight Benefits of Automatically Registering Voters

July 25, 2018

*This release was updated from an earlier version.

Sacramento – California has expanded the number of people ready to participate in democracy by modernizing its voter registration system, according to numbers released today by the California Secretary of State’s office. Under the new program, called California Motor Voter, eligible voters are added to the rolls when they interact with the Department of Motor Vehicles, unless they opt out.
 
Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office said today that more than 259,000 people were newly registered to vote in the state from April 1 to June 30. The Motor Voter program went into effect April 23. And more than 120,000 additional Californians updated the address on their voter registration forms through the DMV during that same time period. In total, during the first 10 weeks of the Motor Voter program along with the 3 weeks before that, nearly 800,000 transactions were conducted, according to the Secretary of State’s numbers. 

"California Motor Voter is a game changer for voter registration and hundreds of thousands of Californians have already taken advantage of this new opportunity," said Secretary of State Alex Padilla. "By automatically registering and pre-registering to vote eligible Californians as they complete a driver license, state ID, or change of address transaction at the DMV, we are making it easier than ever to participate in our democracy. California Motor Voter is helping ensure hundreds of thousands of eligible Californians will be registered and ready to vote this November."

The impressive figures come amid growing national momentum for Automatic Voter Registration. In 2018 alone, similar processes have become law in Washington, Maryland, and New Jersey. Since 2015, 12 states and Washington, D.C., have approved systems that automatically register citizens to vote. It’s a convenient approach that keeps voter rolls more up-to-date and accurate, saves states money, and has been proven to boost voter participation in other states that have implemented it.
 
"Everyone wins here," said Natalie Tennant, manager of state advocacy at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and former Secretary of State of West Virginia. "The process is more modern, and more convenient for both voters and election officials. And after just a few weeks, significantly more people can now engage in our democracy. What’s not to like?"
 
"These new registration numbers from California clearly show that this commonsense reform is already having a big impact in modernizing the voter registration process and improving the accuracy of voter rolls to ensure smoother elections and that fewer voters will have to cast provisional ballots due to an error on the rolls," said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. "From California and Colorado to Illinois and Rhode Island, Common Cause has helped lead the fight to pass similar reforms to build a democracy where everyone participates, every vote is counted, and everyone’s voice is heard."
 
"California has shown that by making voter registration simple and accessible, people will sign up in great numbers," said Stuart Naifeh, Senior Counsel at Demos. "In just three years, the state, which had one of the lowest registration rates at DMVs, as Demos noted in Driving the Vote, has become a model for the rest of the country. After rolling out automatic voter registration, in 10 weeks California has already exceeded the number of voter registrations brought in through DMVs in the entire 2012 election cycle. Other states should follow California’s lead and reduce barriers to voter registration."

Groups that worked on the development of the new California Motor Voter program include ACCE, ACLU, ACLU of California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, Brennan Center, California Common Cause, California Immigrant Policy Center, Demos, Disability Rights California, Future of California Elections, League of Women Voters California, NALEO, and UnidosUS.
 
For additional information or to connect with one of the experts quoted above, contact:
 
Brennan Center – Rebecca Autrey, rebecca.autrey@nyu.edu or 646-292-8316
Common Cause – David G. Vance, dvance@commoncause.org or 202-736-5712 or 240-605-8600
Demos – Arlene Lewis at acorbinlewis@demos.org

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