Calif. Gov. Addresses Proposed Changes in Voter Registration Law

By Erin Ferns Lee October 11, 2011

California Governor Jerry Brown addressed key changes to state voter registration law Friday, just before his deadline to approve new laws in the state.

Earlier this year, Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) introduced a bill to bring the state to “the forefront of technological innovations that make registering to vote easy, accessible, and secure.” Citing the state’s below-average voter registration rate during the 2010 midterm elections (it was 73%, according to the bill’s language), Yee and other lawmakers pushed and passed a bill to fast-track an existing-but-unimplemented law that allows people to register to vote online.

The state already had an online voter registration law on the books, but it was on hold until the state could centralize its voter registration database under the Help America Act of 2002.

The enacted bill, SB 397 (Chapter 561) would allow the state to implement the law when the state either completes the statewide voter registration database or gets approval to use federal money to provide online voter registration. The bill also appears to allow state agencies assist in registering voters, electronically, at motor vehicles or public assistance offices under the National Voter Registration Act.

Keeping in line with his decision to pass legislation that makes it easier for both the voter and the state to process voter registrations, Gov. Brown vetoed a bill that would have discouraged voter registration.

“I understand the author’s desire to stop fraudulent voter registration,” said Gov. Brown on SB 205, a bill restricting voter registration drives by Senator Lou Corea (D-Santa Ana). “But, I don’t believe this bill, which makes it a crime to pay people for registering voters based on the number of registrations they secure, will help.

“Voting is at the heart of our democracy,” he said. “Efforts to register voters should be encouraged, not criminalized.”