Nationally, California ranked 43rd in voter turnout for the 2014 General Election. A new bill in the state Legislature seeks to increase turnout by giving voters more options. It would allow counties to opt-in to a new system in which every voter is mailed a ballot. It would also expand early voting and allow people to cast ballots anywhere in their county.
The voting system is modeled after Colorado’s, where voter turnout tends to be higher. Democratic Senator Bob Hertzberg is a joint author of the bill.
"What we’ve done is flip this on its head and focused on the voter," he says. "On who the voter is and their life, by giving them time by making it convenient for them, rather than convenient for the people in government."
Secretary of State Alex Padilla says every county in California needs a new voting system. And he says this bill gives them an opportunity.
"There’s some counties that are ready and eager to do that sooner rather than later," he says. "Others will take maybe a couple more cycles to make the transition."
Counties could opt-in beginning in 2018. And Padilla says the state will work with them over the next few years to create a funding formula.
The lack of funding concerns Kim Alexander with the California Voter Foundation.
"I’m concerned that the state is not paying its fair share of election costs," she says. "And I hope that these reforms provide an opportunity to discuss what the state’s fair share should be for supporting elections."
In 2011, California stopped reimbursing counties for election costs the state is legally supposed to cover.