This Year could serve as a turning point for the strengthening of voting rights in the modern era. And it’s not only because 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which is in need of protection more than ever as some of its key provisions have come under attack. One piece of good news is that Governor Jerry Brown of California is poised to sign into law a measure that automatically registers all eligible residents to vote when they obtain their driver’s licenses. Earlier this year, Oregon became the first state to enact an automatic voter registration law, and New Jersey’s legislature recently passed a similar bill, which now awaits Governor Chris Christie’s signature. This policy has the potential to drive civic participation to higher levels. Other states should follow their lead.
Almost 7 million eligible California residents are not registered to vote. In last November’s election, the most populated state in the country recorded its lowest turnout, at 42 percent. That’s why some California lawmakers set out to find ways to get more people registered. Modeled after Oregon’s law, the measure simply reverses the status quo: Would-be voters currently have to opt in to get enrolled; soon, voter registration will happen by default when receiving or renewing a license from the department of motor vehicles. So the onus now rests with the government, and not with citizens. The right to vote is granted automatically and without unnecessary barriers, as it should be, unless the individual opts out.
Indeed, voter registration has been an intrinsic part of DMV transactions to make it easier for Americans to get on the voter rolls and expand ballot access. Critics of universal automatic registration — including Christie — say it could lead to voter fraud, since the new system potentially could enroll people who shouldn’t be on the voter lists. But modernizing the process and relying on technology will only make voter lists more accurate and the system more cost-efficient. Under automatic registration, the DMV electronically processes and transfers voter data instead of requiring staff to enter information manually from paper applications.
Full Article: Making voting rights automatic – The Boston Globe.