By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Thursday, April 2nd, 2009 at 10:47 am in Election reform.
The New America Foundation, a Washington, D.C. think tank with an office in Sacramento, is touting a bill in California that would allow the state to automatically register to vote all residents who fill out a form at the Department of Motor Vehicles or file a state tax return.
AB30 passed out of an Assembly elections committee yesterday.
Lawmakers also gave the nod to a related bill, AB106, would preregister all 16-year-olds in the hopes it will foster more interest in politics prior to automatic registration at age 18.
There has been considerable debate over the years over how to increase voter participation but it remains an open question as to whether an automatic registration process will translate into actual voting.
Here’s the press release from the New America Foundation:
Sacramento, CA–The New America Foundation applauded the advancement of two bills designed to increase the number of Californians who are registered to vote. The bills, AB 30 (Price) and AB 106 (Price), were approved yesterday by the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting by a solid 5-1 vote. If passed, the bills would make great strides toward bringing California closer to 100 percent voter registration.
“Voter registration is the very heart of the democratic process and these two bills have the potential to add millions of Californians to the voter rolls,” said Steven Hill, Director of New America’s Political Reform Program. Approximately 7 million Californians who are eligible to vote are not currently registered.
AB 106 would make registration “automatic”-any person who fills out a form for the DMV or a state income tax form would automatically be registered to vote (with an opt-out for those who do not wish to be registered). AB 30 will create an option for high school students who are 16 years or older to pre-register to vote (sometimes known as “advance” registration). When these students turn 18, their registration will become active. AB 30 would allow young people to be involved in the democratic process at an earlier age and make it more likely that they will remain engaged as they become adults.
These two bills are based on signature ideas from the New America Foundation’s Political Reform Program. Research shows that registration is one of the largest barriers to voting. Citizens often become energized by candidates or issue campaigns in the last weeks of an election only to find they are not registered to vote or are not registered at their current addresses. Automatic registration would lower this barrier.
A wide spectrum of organizations testified in support of AB 30 and AB 106, including Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, CalPIRG, AARP and Californians for Electoral Reform, in addition to the New America Foundation. San Mateo County Registrar of Voters, Warren Slocum, also testified in support of AB 30, as did a representative from the office of Secretary of State Debra Bowen.