Capitol conference highlights reforms to improve voter turnout

150 150 Cheryl Getuiza

“Rock the vote!”

“Get your voice heard… go out and vote!”

These are some of the messages we often hear during an election year.

But over the years, the number of Californians actually casting ballots has declined – now ranking 41st in the country. That means, only nine states have a more dismal voter turnout record than the Golden State.

The Pew Center on the States held a one-day conference at the state capitol in Sacramento last week to discuss the issue and explore potential solutions.

David Becker, project director of election initiatives, opened the conference by discussing the importance of updating and improving our voter registration system to ensure management and regulation and allow all Californians have a better opportunity to engage in the civic process.

Then, several experts discussed two solutions for improving California’s voter registration process: Senate Bills 397 and 641.

SB 397, authored by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), would allow registered voters to cast ballots through the website of their county registrar’s office.

California used to be on the forefront of voting technology modernization and reform, says Yee. But today it lags behind other states, including Arizona.

Voting online sounds great, especially for younger generations. But some are concerned it may just leave more room for error.

Supporters say there will be greater safeguards to fraud with the online plan than the current paper registration process.

Meantime, SB 641, authored by Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), would allow people to register to vote up until and on election day.

Allowing voters to register and vote on the same day will do away with unnecessary long lines, Calderon says.

Other states with laws similar to SB 641 have seen a seven-percent increase in voter participation.

SB 397 and SB 641 have already been approved by the Senate and will be considered by the Assembly Appropriations Committee in August.


Cheryl Getuiza

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