California following Oregon’s lead on universal (automatic) voter registration

Maybe Arizona’s queen of voter suppression, Secretary of State Michele Reagan, should pick up the phone and call her counterparts in Oregon and California to learn more about what a secretary of state who actually wants to increase voter participation in elections does to make it happen.

Think Progress reports, One Simple Change Could Drastically Improve Voter Turnout In California:

Voting-RightsAs soon as this week, the California Senate could pass a bill to address its dismally low voter turnout by making registration automatic for the millions of residents with drivers licenses.

Copying a landmark law passed by Oregon earlier this year, the policy would connect DMV records with voter registration rolls, putting the burden on the voter to opt-out rather than opt-in. According to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, this could help bring the 6.6 million California citizens who are eligible but not registered to vote into the democratic process.

“We have a lot of work to do on the strength of our democracy,” Padilla told ThinkProgress. “We need to focus on the whole pipeline: both getting more currently registered people to cast ballots, and getting more eligible Californians on the voter rolls.”

California’s participation rate in the most recent elections was one of the worst in the country — with just over 42 percent of eligible voters turning out in last fall’s election. In Los Angeles County, just 31 percent of registered voters cast a ballot.

The state’s communities of color could particular benefit from the policy change. Currently, only 62.8 percent of Latino and 50.7 percent of Asian-American residents are registered in California. Latinos, who recently surpassed whites to become the largest demographic group in the state, have the lowest participation rate: just 28 percent of them cast ballots in 2014.

As the state senate decides whether to send the bill to the governor’s desk, other groups are pushing for additional measures to make it easier to vote. Some have advocated for mailing every eligible Californian a ballot as Washington, Colorado and Oregon already do, while others have pushed successfully for tens of thousands of former prisoners to have their voting rights restored. The state is also in the process of implementing same-day voter registration, which has boosted turnout rates in other states by 10 to 12 percent.

Ahem, Secretary Reagan, I have advocated for and posted about these election reforms to improve voter participation for years. Where is your plan? Maybe you should attend this conference this fall and educate yourself:

[O]ther Californians are enlisting the help of nerd and pop culture to inspire more people to get invested in the political process.

Enter Politicon, the brainchild of music producer Simon Sidi, which aims to bring together elected officials, campaign strategists, comedians, actors for a multi-day festival this fall.

“Superhero people have ComicCon. Music people have South by Southwest,” Sidi told ThinkProgress. “Politicon is for us, for people who love this subject.”

The non-partisan festival in mid-October aims to attract both political die-hards as well as those who feel voting is a waste of time.

* * *

As California struggles to get more of its residents to register and turn out to the polls for elections, Politicon hopes to use humor and Hollywood glitz to deliver a serious message.

“The food you eat, the water you drink, the roads you drive on, is determined by an elected official or, sadly, a lobbyist,” Macks told ThinkProgress. “Politics matters. The person or party you may be dismissing has a real influence on your life.”

Demand greater voter participation from our Secretary of State and state legislature.

5 responses to “California following Oregon’s lead on universal (automatic) voter registration

  1. captain*arizona

    The arizona state democratic party is to busy fund raising from fat cats so their pay checks don’t bounce. By the way universal voting in blue states and vote suppression in red states means the republican party will never win the popular vote again even though electoral votes won’t be affected so that a republican could lose the popular votes by millions and win electoral vote. Bush had to allow 9-11 to happen to stop people calling his election fraudulent and get nancy pelosi and deems holding hands with republiscum on capital steps singing their little hearts out!

  2. And every two years hold a public lottery, with a million dollar prize. One state resident citizen is drawn from the database. If you voted in the last election, you win the money. If you didn’t vote, the money rolls over to the next cycle.

  3. Hmm, maybe we should run an Initiative here in AZ?

    • You have to convince (1) the donor class and (2) the political consultant class, both of whom are adverse to taking chances or to doing the right thing.

    • You have to convince (1) the donor class and (2) the political consultant class, both of whom are adverse to taking chances or to doing the right thing.