SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Governor Jerry Brown today signed into law Senate Bill 35 authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima). The new law will facilitate voter registration and further California’s compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), commonly known as Motor Voter. The bill goes into effect on January 1, 2013.
“With the Governor’s signature, California becomes the first state in the nation to offer voter registration through implementation of the Affordable Care Act. This continues our commitment to maximizing voter registration and participation. Last week, California launched a new on-line voter registration system and more than 20,000 Californians registered to vote in the first 24 hours alone,” said Senator Padilla.
“I thank Governor Brown for signing my bill to expand voter registration opportunities in California. One of every seven eligible voters in the United States lives in California and nearly seven million of them are not registered. Expanding voter registration opportunities will increase participation and strengthen our democracy,” said Senator Padilla.
Specifically, the new law required by SB 35 will:
• establish procedures to register voters in person and online in accordance with Motor Voter
• require the California Health Benefit Exchange to provide online voter registration to its clients
• allow the Secretary of State to conduct reviews of a state agency’s compliance with Motor Voter
• require the Secretary of State and county elections officials to coordinate with the designated state agencies
• require the Secretary of State’s online voter registration application process to be translated into Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and Tagalog in accordance with Motor Voter
Motor Voter was signed into law in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. Motor Voter required state governments to expand the public’s access to voter registration when renewing a driver’s license, vehicle registration or applying for social services. Following the passage of Motor Voter, Governor Pete Wilson designated the minimum number of required agencies, two. Since that time, despite California’s discretionary authority to do so, no additional agencies have been designated as voter registration agencies.
SB 35 is the first time legislation has been introduced in California to further implement Motor Voter. Fully implementing Motor Voter can make a significant difference in voter registration. Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia have enacted policies to fully implement Motor Voter with dramatic results; Illinois saw an 1800% increase in monthly registrations; Missouri saw an 1450% increase, Ohio 800%, North California 530%, and in Virginia, a 400% increase. SB 35 would put California on track to realize similar gains in voter participation. Specifically, through the implementation of SB 35 we have the opportunity to register millions of Californians who apply for health care benefits under the Affordable Care Act.
The need for stronger compliance with Motor voter is demonstrated by the number of unregistered voters in California, especially among low-income citizens. Since the implementation of Motor Voter there has been an 87 percent decline in the amount of registration applications collected by California voter registration agencies.
A random field investigation carried out in 2009 by Project Vote, a national non-partisan voter organization, of 29 public assistance agencies in six counties, found only one that provided voter registration applications and services to clients. Motor Voter requires that social service agencies provide their clients with a mail-in voter registration application when applying for benefits, renewing/recertifying benefits, and reporting a change of address. The agencies are also required to assist the client in filling out the voter registration application and submit the completed application for the client.
Last week, California joined twelve other states in offering on-line voter registration through the Secretary of State’s website. More than 20,000 Californians’ registered in the first twenty-four hours. The deadline to register to vote for the November election is October 22nd.
Tomorrow is National Voter Registration Day, a coordinated nationwide, nonpartisan volunteer effort to register thousands of voters on one single day.