Instead of an opt-in provision at the DMV, eligible Californians will now have to opt out of being registered to vote if they wish to remain unregistered, thanks to a law Gov. Jerry Brown signed today, which is set to take effect ahead of the 2016 presidential primary. It was enacted in response to extremely low 2014 turnout in the state — well below 50%.
“The New Motor Voter Act will make our democracy stronger by removing a key barrier to voting for millions of California citizens,” [Secretary of State Alex] Padilla said Saturday. “Citizens should not be required to opt in to their fundamental right to vote. We do not have to opt in to other rights, such as free speech or due process.”
In general, this seems to me like a good idea. I do wonder how well it will work in practice if a lot of people move around (even just to a neighboring precinct) without updating their license and voter registration.
I also wonder how many people who weren’t registered before will now take the opportunity to turn out, but perhaps the campaigns will be able to target Never-Voteds more effectively by mail, phone, and canvassing now that there will be a database identifying them.
This legislation could also prove important for unexpected reasons given an upcoming Supreme Court case concerning redistricting by number of residents versus by number of voters (or other alternative metrics).
California will also be increasing options for early voting ballot dropoffs and vote-by-mail, also in an effort to increase turnout.
Arsenal For Democracy’s radio show debated automatic voter registration in the first segment of Episode 131 from June 2015.