Californians who apply for driver’s licenses or state ID cards will be automatically registered to vote starting in April unless they opt out, a state lawyer said in court Thursday. Deputy Attorney General Paul Stein told a federal magistrate that the long-awaited implementation of the state’s “new motor voter law” was grounds for dismissing a suit by voting-rights advocates who objected to California’s requirement that drivers who renew their licenses by mail each year must fill out a separate form to register to vote. The automatic registration procedure, which was approved by state lawmakers in 2015, ”goes above and beyond what (federal law) requires” and will take effect before the June 2018 primary election, Stein said. “There’s no need for a court order.”
But the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Michael Risher of the American Civil Liberties Union, said they weren’t prepared to drop their case, at least without “some sort of enforcement mechanism” for the April implementation. U.S. Magistrate Laurel Beeler of San Francisco asked the two sides to try to work out an agreement and said she would rule next week on whether the suit could continue.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office, which sponsored the 2015 legislation, confirmed Wednesday that the law will take effect in April.