Hot from the resounding success of the online voter registration system his legislation enabled, a Bay Area lawmaker now wants to expand that system’s reach.
State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, today introduced a bill that would put a link to the online registration system run by the Secretary of State on every state government website.
“The use of online voter registration was overwhelming, but we need to continue to find new ways to get as many citizens as possible involved in our democracy,” Yee said in a news release. “When Californians access their state government via the internet, we should encourage them to vote and have their voice heard at the ballot box.”
“There are more than 5 ½ million eligible Californians who are not registered to vote. Senate Bill 44 will help us reach these individuals and significantly increase the voter rolls.”
The new system, which went live in September, let nearly 800,000 Californians register online to vote in November’s election, helping to boost the state’s registered voters to a record 18.25 million and – some believe – contributing to Democrats’ success in reaching legislative supermajorities.
Yee cited early numbers showing that those who registered to vote using the new online system were significantly more likely to cast a ballot in the November election.
According to Political Data Inc. (PDI), turnout was 84.7 percent in Sacramento County from those who registered online – 10 percentage points higher than the county average. In Orange County, those who registered online turned out at 82 percent versus the county average of 72 percent. Fresno County saw an even larger uptick in turnout among those who registered online: 78.2 percent, versus the county average of only 63.8 percent. Figures for other counties are still being collected.
“Not only were we able to increase turnout among those who registered online, but we significantly increased participation among young people and first time voters,” said Yee.
UPDATE @ 4:19 P.M. THURSDAY: A quick clarification and amplification – these comparisons in Sacramento, Orange and Fresno counties are between those who registered online between Sept. 19 (when the new system went live) and Oct. 22 and all other voters in those counties regardless of when they registered. The turnout rates are much closer if you compare those who registered online during those few final weeks and those who registered on paper during the same time period. Also, it’s worth noting that while Yee sponsored the legislation authorizing the new system, it was Secretary of State Debra Bowen who secured federal funding and built a successful system in only about nine months, a very short time by state IT project standards.