Governor Signs “California New Motor Voter Program” into Law

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  • Kathay Feng

Today Governor Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 1461, also known as the California New Motor Voter Program. The bill, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and sponsored by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, will streamline California’s voter registration process and enable the Secretary of State to do additional outreach to register eligible voters. Under the new law, beginning no later than 2017, all Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) users who indicate they are eligible to vote will be automatically registered, unless they opt out of registering. Prior to that, the law also authorizes the Secretary of State to use DMV contact information to reach out to potentially millions of eligible California voters to encourage them to register to vote.

The enactment of AB 1461 builds off of the Governor’s budget, enacted earlier in 2015, which appropriated $2.35 million to fund technological upgrades at the DMV and the Secretary of State’s office to better facilitate voter registration at the DMV.

California Common Cause issued the following statement on the decision:

Statement by Kathay Feng, Common Cause California Executive Director:

     “This is a big victory for democracy. Today California joins Oregon in becoming one the first states in the nation to implement an automated, new and improved Motor Voter Program. Reducing the barriers to voter registration is one of the clearest policy changes that can be made to increase voter turnout. Along with funding in this year’s budget for voter registration technology upgrades at DMV, California is demonstrating its commitment to promoting 100% voter participation.”

According to the latest figures from the Secretary of State, there are 6.6 million eligible Californians who are not registered to vote. In November 2014, 30.9 percent of eligible voters turned out to vote – the lowest rate for a state general election in more than 100 years.