Starting Jan. 1, 16 and 17-year-olds can pre-register to vote before they begin casting ballots at age 18. It’s just one of several changes to voter laws in the new year that aim to encourage citizen engagement and make voting more efficient. The first of the year also will see another law take effect that allows voters to head to their county’s election office on Election Day to register and vote. Currently, voters need to register about two weeks before the primary and general elections. “This creates a fail-safe for people who missed the 15 day deadline and still want to vote,” said Kim Alexander, the California Voter Foundation’s founder and president. Lawmakers passed the new same-day registration law in 2012, but it was placed on hold until the state certified the California voter registration database known as VoteCal. VoteCal was certified in the fall, so same-day registration — already in place in other states to boost voter participation — can now go forward.
Also this year, tens of thousands of felons convicted of low-level crimes will have their voting rights restored. The new law gives those in county jails the chance to vote. Those in state or federal prisons remain ineligible. The bill faced strong opposition from law enforcement agencies, but was ultimately passed and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September.
The new laws will impact voters in Los Angeles County during upcoming local elections on March 7. Elections scheduled include those for Los Angeles’ mayor, several L.A. City Council seats and a quarter-cent county sales tax proposal to fund homeless services.
Because the county proposal is on the ballot, the county will administer the March 7 election. The city of Los Angeles will then take over, running its general election on May 16.