While the reanimated corpse of Jim Crow stalks states where Republicans rule, with a spate of new laws intended to depress voter registration and turnout among African Americans and Latinos, among others, lawmakers in California, where Democrats control the executive and legislative branches, have put two measures in place to make registering to vote easier.
First, Secretary of State Debra Bowen launched a new system that enables voters to register online:
“Today, the Internet replaces the mailbox for thousands of Californians wishing to register to vote,” Bowen said at a Sacramento news conference.
The new system could shave a week or more from the paper process, according to Dean Logan, the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder. Until now, every would-be voter had to fill out an application, sign it in paper form and mail or deliver it to elections officials before being added to the voter rolls.
The online system will search the Department of Motor Vehicles database for the applicant’s driver’s license and other identifying information and match it to the electronic form. The potential voters can authorize elections officials to use an electronic image of their DMV signature to complete the application.
County elections officials would still need to verify the information, though, and those without driver’s licenses or state identification cards must still register on paper.
Yesterday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that will make Election-Day registration legal next year:
California will join 10 other states, including Connecticut, Idaho, Minnesota and Wisconsin, that allow some form of election-day registration. The governor said the measure is a way to increase voter participation.
“Voting — the sacred right of every citizen — should be simple and convenient,” Brown said in a statement.
Current law says voters must register at least 15 days before an election. The new measure becomes law Jan. 1 but will not be implemented until after the California secretary of state begins operating VoteCal, a long-delayed state voter database that will allow officials to check whether an applicant is already registered in another county.
VoteCal is not expected to be up and running until 2015, said Nicole Winger, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state.
Many Republican lawmakers opposed the change. Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-San Bernardino) said that, combined with California’s new online voter registration system, it would lead to voter fraud.
“Along with the new motor-voter process of registration, same-day registration and the new online registration system, our elections are becoming less and less secure,” Donnelly said.
Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), author of the bill, AB 1436, noted that it increases penalties for fraud.