California Governor Approves Voter Registration Bills
This week, California Governor Jerry Brown approved two new election bills in an effort to “promote and encourage” voter registration of its citizens. In a state where only 68 percent of eligible citizens are actually registered to vote, this is great news.
On Monday, Gov. Brown approved online voter registration bill AB 1357 as well as AB 84, a bill to allow new citizens who become naturalized within 15 days of an election to register to vote up to and on Election Day.
California already has a policy to provide online voter registration, but it will not go into effect until the state complies with the requirements to maintain a statewide voter registration database under the Help America Vote Act of 2002. Assembly Bill 1357 allows counties to work around this hurdle by working with the secretary of state to run county-wide voter registration databases. Although the bill has language to expand paper registration efforts (see below), it excludes third-party organizations from using online voter registration Web sites for the purpose or running voter registration drives.
The omnibus bill additionally states the legislature’s intent to direct the election board of each county to “promote and encourage” vote registration by:
-establishing a “sufficient number of registration places throughout the county.”
-enlisting the support and cooperation of interested citizens and organizations to be deputized as registrars who may help register voters anywhere in the county, including places of residence.
- minimizing obstacles to registration by non-English-speaking citizens: in counties where three percent or more of the voting age residents are non-English speakers, the county elections official must make reasonable efforts to recruit deputy registrars who are fluent in both English and the language used by citizens.
- making various additions to the state voter registration card, including a toll-free hotline telephone number maintained by the secretary of state to report fraudulent activity.