Election seasons come and go, and with them public attention to the political process waxes and wanes. “The really heartbreaking fact of the matter is that a lot of the excitement kicks in about two weeks before Election Day. But by then it’s too late, and a lot of people are left sitting on the sidelines,” said Kim Alexander, president and founder of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation. “If we can engage people when they’re excited, we have an opportunity to create a lifelong voter.” The Legislature on Tuesday moved closer toward embracing one way to help Californians seize that moment by allowing voter registration to take place through Election Day — an approach that has sparked sharp partisan divisions in the past. On a party-line vote, with majority Democrats in support, the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee approved a bill to allow same-day voter registration as soon as a new statewide computerized database is operational. The system will let elections officials check the status of all voters statewide.
The measure — AB 1436, by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles — has been approved by the Assembly and next heads to the Senate Public Safety Committee, which must consider the bill because it would increase the maximum penalty for voter fraud. Feuer said the key difference from previous attempts is the timing. His bill would not take effect until Jan. 1 of the year after a database called Vote-Cal, now being developed, becomes operational. Such a database, required by the federal government of every state, would incorporate the voter rolls of all 58 counties in the state and be linked with data from other government agencies, including the Department of Motor Vehicles and Social Security Administration. By using the database, he said, elections officials would be able to “determine instantaneously if a voter is registered elsewhere” and whether a voter has cast a ballot in another county.