Governor Brown Signs SB 113 and SB 29

Sacramento – Californians can rejoice today with the addition of two new laws to their elections code.  Yesterday evening, Governor Brown signed into law SB 113 and SB 29, two elections bills that promise to expand the franchise and increase turnout among voters in the state.   

SB 113, introduced by Senator Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), will expand pre-registration opportunities to sixteen-year-olds, who will then be able to vote upon turning 18.  It is contingent upon enactment of VoteCal, the state’s voter registration database, expected to be up and running by 2016.  SB 29, introduced by Senator Correa, (D-34th District), now allows a voter to submit a ballot by mail on Election Day, so long as it is postmarked by that date.  The state previously allowed registered voters to submit their ballots by mail, so long as the ballot was received by Election Day.  Both new laws provide individuals in the State of California with additional opportunities for civic and political engagement.

“More than ever, it’s vital that Californians turn out to the precincts to cast their ballots,” said Kathay Feng, Executive Director for California Common Cause, a non-partisan grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy.  “Our state’s most recent primary, this past June, saw the lowest turnout since 1946.  That’s unacceptable.  There are lots of reasons why Americans today – and Californians, in particular – feel discouraged by the political process, not least of which are some of the hurdles in place that keep them from the polls.  With reforms like those detailed in SB 113 and SB 29 – allowing for registered voters to submit absentee ballots on Election Day and for 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote – we’re likely to see our turnout numbers increase.  That’s a win for voters and the state alike.”

“Research indicates that the earlier young people start to vote, the likelier they are to remain lifelong voters,” said Sarah Swanbeck, Legislative Affairs Advocate for CA Common Cause.  We’re thrilled today that California has taken the step toward encouraging younger high school students to register to vote at the age of 16, in preparation for voting by the time they turn 18.  This measure should encourage youth to become politically and civically engaged, which benefits both the individual and our greater communities.”

“Moreover,” Swanbeck added, “allowing voters to submit their ballots by mail on Election Day gives them the same advantage as those going to the polls in-person.  Many individuals throughout the state – due to disability, or lack of access, or hectic lives with lots of job shifts – simply can’t get to the polls.  These Californians have already had access to mail ballots.  Now that they can submit them on Election Day, they can vote just as others heading to the precincts that day, without wondering whether they mailed their ballots in time.  Postmark rules take the guesswork out of the equation.”

As part of its mission to hold government accountable to the will of the people, CA Common Cause works to ensure that all eligible voters cast their ballots.  Over the past several years we have helped pass redistricting reform and online voter registration, thereby affording Californians with great access to the polls – and opportunities to have their voices heard.

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