September 11, 2015 (Sacramento)--Assembly Bill 1461, also known as the California New Motor Voter Act, was approved today by the California Assembly on a 44-21 concurrence vote. The bill will now be sent to the Governor for his consideration.
Authored by California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) and sponsored by California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, the California New Motor Voter Act would register every eligible resident who goes to a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to get a license or renew one, with the ability to opt out, potentially adding millions of new registered voters to California’s voter rolls.
“Nothing is more critical to a strong democracy than ensuring people have access to voting free from unnecessary barriers,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve seen turnout plummet in recent years as our voting system has fallen behind the times, but the New Motor Voter Act allows us the opportunity to streamline and modernize the registration process for millions of eligible voters who haven’t been a part of our voting system.”
Assemblymembers Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) and Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) served as joint authors for the bill, and Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Los Angeles County) managed the bill in the Senate as principal co-author. AB 1461 was approved by the full Senate last night on a 24-15 vote.
Statistics show that less than 1 out of every five residents who interact with the DMV through the current motor voter program opt-in to vote. Padilla, who sponsored by the bill as Secretary of State, said AB 1461 would provide Californians easier access to their right to vote by removing an unnecessary step.
“Citizens are currently required to opt-in to their fundamental right to vote through registration,” Padilla said. “We do not have to opt-in to other rights, such as free speech or due process. The right to vote should be no different.”
The California New Motor Voter Act calls for data already being collected by the DMV to be provided to local election officials to expand voter registration while protecting the public's right to privacy and to decline registration. Data collected by the DMV would be provided to the California Secretary of State’s Office after verifying a resident’s legal eligibility to vote. The Secretary of State then provides the information to county Registrars of Voters who maintain each county’s voter rolls. The bill would continue to protect those covered by existing confidentiality policies, such as peace officers, and voters would retain their right to cancel their voter registration at any time.
An estimated 6.6 million Californians are eligible to vote but unregistered, ranking the state 38th among the 50 states in voter registration.
In 2014, Gonzalez authored the VOTE Act (AB 1873), creating a pilot program in San Diego County to provide all voters with mail ballots in special legislative elections. Assemblymembers Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) and Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) are joint authors of the California New Motor Voter Act, which last month was approved by the full Assembly and by the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments.