The era of the neighborhood polling place with its paper voter rolls and rickety booths isn’t quite over, but it is well on its way out in California. No tears will be shed here: It’s high time the state entered the 21st century. That’s the opinion of new Secretary of State Alex Padilla as well. Last week he unveiled his second proposal to encourage voter participation in California: a plan to send mail-in ballots to every registered voter and to encourage counties to set up voting centers for their voters to use, regardless of precinct, up to 10 days before election day.
These may sound like incremental changes, but they reflect a significant shift in thinking about the state’s shamefully backward elections system. Padilla is understandably eager to restart reforms that his predecessor let languish, but he must not, in his haste, place too much burden on the state’s 58 counties too quickly.
Gearing up to send ballots to every registered voter in time for the next general election would be a challenge in and of itself. It would be all the more daunting if another of Padilla’s proposals, a “motor voter” bill, passes. The bill would automatically register people to vote when they get or renew a driver’s license, adding as many as 5.8 million to California’s voting rolls.