Calif. Senate Committee Hearing on Bill to Improve Voter Registration at Public Agencies
Right now, the California Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee is deliberating over a bill that would establish procedures to register voters under the federal National Voter Registration Act.
The NVRA requires state public assistance agencies to offer clients the opportunity to register to vote. The need for stronger legislative enforcement of NVRA Section 7 in California is amply demonstrated by the number of unregistered voters in the state, especially low-income citizens: In 2010, 61 percent of Californians were registered to vote, a rate that is four percentage points below the national average. Low-income Californians (earnings less than $25,000) also lagged behind the national average in voter registration rates by four percentage points.
We have worked toward ensuring that states comply with this important federal law that provides low-income citizens with the opportunity to register to vote. We know public agency registration, when enforced, works. For example, applications from Missouri public assistance agencies skyrocketed, from fewer than 8,000 a year to over 130,000 a year, following the 2009 settlement of our suit.
Senator Alex Padilla’s bill, SB 35 may help clarify the state’s obligations to follow the law and expand the number of California agencies required to do so.
See our testimony in support of SB 35 here.