SACRAMENTO–Assembly Bill 1461, also known as the California New Motor Voter Act, was approved Tuesday by the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing on a 8 to 3 vote. The bill will now be considered by Senate Committee on Appropriations.
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 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.
“After record low voter participation last year, it’s our responsibility as elected leaders to take whatever steps we can to make casting a ballot as easy as possible for voters,” said Gonzalez. “This is a critical opportunity to bring millions of eligible voters into the election process by streamlining the registration process and continuing to modernize our entire voting system.”
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.