Photo courtesty of Flickr user KOMUnews
Lawmakers advanced a bill this week that has the potential to increase California’s chronically low voter turnout.
On Tuesday, the California Senate Elections Committee approved AB 1436. The bill, which passed out of the state Assembly earlier this month, would allow citizens to register to vote on election day. If passed, the bill would remove the current voter registration deadline that requires Californians to register to vote 15 days prior to any election.
Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) introduced the bill which is sponsored by California Common Cause and supported by a broad coalition of other good government organizations like the Advancement Project, the Greenlining Institute, and the League of Women Voters of California.
If signed into law, California would join the growing list of nine states and the District of Columbia that already allow some form of same-day voter registration. A study published in Social Science Quarterly found that voter participation increased by 7 percent in those nine states after adopting election day registration (EDR).
“States with election day registration get a broader demographic to participate in the process”, said Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause. “When people can register at the same time as they vote—they don’t have to mail anything in, they don’t have to go to the DMV—we’ll have greater turnout numbers.”
Critics of the measure argue that EDR could lead to rampant voter fraud. In an attempt to address these concerns, the authors designed the bill to take effect the January 1 of the year following the full implementation of Vote-Cal, the state’s federally mandated statewide voter database that is currently in development.
The Vote-Cal project will integrate the 58 separate voter files presently maintained by the counties to create a single centralized voter database linked to external state agencies, like the DMV, and administered at the state level.
The final tally of ballots cast during the June 5 primary has yet to be completed, but elections officials estimate that a mere 5 million Californians, just 21% of eligible voters, showed up to the polls. Although analysts forecast a higher turnout for the general election in November, something must be done to reverse the troubling and steady rise of voter apathy statewide.
Do you think allowing Californians to register and vote on election day will increase voter turnout?