I’m happy to report that it isn’t all gloom and doom on the voting rights front. California is working to broaden the state’s electorate and improve access to voting for all citizens with legislation to implement Same Day Registration and allow true online voter registration.
We love same day registration. The states that already have same day registration – which allows you to become registered and cast a ballot during the early voting period – have the highest voter turnout rates in the country, sometimes 7 to 11 percentage points higher than those that don’t have it. It is estimated that in California, overall turnout could increase by 5 percent and 9 percent for voters ages 18 to 25. That’s good stuff.
At the time of the greatest interest in elections, namely the final weeks leading up to Election Day, we don’t think people should be shut out of the process by arbitrary voter registration deadlines. This bill would change that.
What if I told you that a state could register even more voters for less money? Would you be interested? Well, then, welcome to online voter registration.
The prevailing paper-based voter registration system is foreign to the digital generation. We can fill out permissions slips, submit homework, sign up for classes, bank securely, file taxes, book flights, map directions and change our address online, yet voter registration is an unnecessarily antiquated, inefficient and confusing process.
Online voter registration has the potential to increase the registration rate by 9 percent. And a Pew study on the cost of voter registration in the state of Oregon found that during the 2008 election, Oregon spent more than $8.8 million, a cost of $4.11 per active voter or $7.67 per voter registration transactions like adding or updating registrations. Recently, Oregon’s Secretary of State reported that after implementing its online voter registration system a year ago about 87,000 citizens had used the system to register or update their addresses at a cost of less than $1 per transaction. Maricopa County, AZ saved more than $450,000 in 2008. Delaware saved more than $200,000 in 2009. The State of Washington, where 23 percent of new registrants now use its online system, saved $126,000 in 2008.
According to a survey done by the U.S. Census, of all eligible citizens who were not registered to vote in 2008, 14 percent responded that it was because they missed a voter registration deadline. Among 18- to 29-year olds who did not register to vote, 21 percent said it was because they did not meet the registration deadline in their state and an additional 6 percent said they did not know how or where to register. These bills will go a long way to get all interested and eligible voters on the rolls.
Call Senate President pro Tem, Darrell Steinberg at (916) 651-4006 to tell him to bring SB 641 (same day registration) and SB 397 (online voter registration) up for a vote.