Goal is to Increase State's Dismal Voter Turnout
By Suzanne Potter, California News Service
May 1, 2015 (Sacramento)--Before the 2016 election most California drivers could be automatically registered to vote and receive their ballot in the mail all without having to lift a finger. Today, the Assembly Transportation Committee hears a bill to authorize the state to use the Department of Motor Vehicles database to register all drivers who are eligible to vote.
Last week, the Senate Elections Committee passed a bill to require counties to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters, while still giving them the option of going to the polls in person.
Opponents say these changes would substantially increase the chances of ballot fraud but Trudy Schafer, senior director for programs with the League of Women Voters, downplays the risk.
"Fraud is not in general the concern many people seem to think it is," says Schafer. "We have a lot of checks within our system as it is already. And nobody's going to allow this to go forward without making sure that there's good security, in many different ways."
Also in the works is a new voter database called VoteCal that will allow poll workers to verify that people haven't already mailed in a ballot when they show up at the polls.
Schafer says another critical concern is to make sure every voter's personal information is protected.
"The devil's in the detail," Schafer says. "They're visionary plans that are going to take a lot of changes all working together, to make them happen."
She notes the goal of each of these ideas is to improve the Golden State's abysmal voter turnout. Just 42 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in the statewide election last November. Oregon and Colorado have already instituted similar measures, and both have seen improvements in voter participation.