In use for the first time last year, California’s online voter registration system proved so popular that lawmakers want to build on its success this year. Wider promotion of the system and a push toward online voting are among several election-related bills under consideration as the Legislature approaches a midyear bill deadline. Other changes under consideration would shine more light on campaign financing and update how elections are run.
About 800,000 Californians used the online registration system to join the state’s voter rolls, according to state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who authored the original bill. An analysis of turnout figures by Political Data Inc. indicated that those who registered online were significantly more likely than other voters to cast a ballot last November. This year, Yee’s SB44 is proposing that all state websites link to the secretary of state’s voter registration page in an effort to publicize the system.
Others want the state to move even further online and are pushing for a pilot program to test the casting of ballots over the Internet. Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, has put forward AB19 to review the security of online voting software and eventually create a pilot program for counties.
“It’s odd that California, being the heart of the technology frontier, hasn’t yet embraced it,” Ting said, pointing to the wide use of online voter registration as a signal that many would be interested in Internet voting.
Republicans opposed the online voter-registration bill approved last session. Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, the ranking Republican on the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee, said moving the registration process online creates new opportunities for fraud. “Anything that makes things more accessible I’m in favor of, but when you have no voter ID, you don’t really know who is voting,” said Donnelly, of Twin Peaks in Southern California.