The nation’s largest state may be about to make it much easier to register and vote. California’s Senate passed a bill Thursday by a 24-15 vote that would automatically register to vote anyone who gets or renews a driver’s license, unless they chose to opt out. The state Assembly already passed a similar bill in June. If the Senate version passes an Assembly vote, as expected, the measure would head to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown. Brown, a Democrat, hasn’t taken a public position on the bill, and a spokesman for his office declined to comment on pending legislation. But in 2012 he signed legislation allowing Californians to register and vote on the same day.
Automatic voter registration is fast gaining traction in blue states as a way to expand access to voting, after record low turnout in last fall’s midterms. In March, Oregon became the first state to enact the reform, prompting legislators in 17 states, plus the District of Columbia and both houses of the U.S. Congress, to introduce similar bills. It gained further momentum in June when Hillary Clinton backed the idea in a major campaign speech on voting rights.
New Jersey lawmakers have passed an automatic voter registration bill, but Gov. Chris Christie, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, looks unlikely to sign it. “I don’t think that people ought to be automatically registered to vote,” Christie said in June. “Is it really too much to ask to ask someone to fill out a form?”