California automatically registers millions of voters with new bill

The so-called Motor Voter Act seeks to improve voter turnout in the Golden State

Justin Carissimo
Sunday 11 October 2015 19:32 BST
Voters cast their ballots in California.
Voters cast their ballots in California. (Frederic J Brown/Getty)

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Louise Thomas

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California Governor Jerry Brown signed a measure on Saturday to combat his state’s recent low-voter turnout.

Millions of California residents will be registered to vote when they obtain or renew their driver’s licenses. Voters will also have the option to opt out of voter registration if they choose.

The bill, drafted by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, follows Oregon’s move to adopt the nation’s first automatic registration legislation.

"It's removing the first barrier to voting, which is registration,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “It's going to lead to millions more Californians being registered to vote, which means more people we can talk to.”

The Times reports that the only 42% of voters participated in the November 2014 statewide election.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla issued a statement on Saturday applauding Governor Brown for signing the “landmark legislation.”

“The New Motor Voter Act will make voter registration a seamless process and result in the largest sustained voter registration drive in our nation’s history. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the federal Voting Rights Act, Governor Brown has affirmed California's commitment to strengthening voting rights,” he said.

Mr Padilla also said that he’s aware of many states who seek to restrict voting rights with “the clear goal of preventing citizens from voting” and that he’s proud his state is showing how the nation can expand access to voting for all Americans.

The so-called Motor Voter Act hopes to improve minority turnout in California, as nearly 63% of Latino and 51% of Asian-American residents are registered to vote, according to the California Civic Engagement Project.

The new legislation will come into effect on 1 January 2016.

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