In a move advocates say “will make our democracy stronger,” California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a package of bills to expand and strengthen voting rights in the state.
Perhaps the most significant bill is the New Motor Voter Act, which will automatically register to vote eligible citizens when they obtain or renew a driver’s license.
Its authors say the measure will allow the estimated 6.6 million Californians who are eligible but not registered to vote a more seamless process and boost access to the polls.
Citizens who are automatically registered will receive a notification allowing them to select a political party, or none, and a chance to “opt out” of registering altogether.
“Government should not impede a citizen’s right to vote. The New Motor Voter Act will make our democracy stronger by removing a key barrier to voting for millions of California citizens. I applaud Governor Brown for his leadership and bold action to increase voter participation in our state," said Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
The legislation was jointly sponsor by four Democrats: Padilla, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, Assemblyman Luis Alejo of Salinas and Assemblyman Kevin McCarty of Sacramento.
Some Republicans opposed the measure, saying it would boost Democratic voting rolls more so than GOP rolls. Its backers have said the measure was created in a neutral fashion.
Another key elections bill signed by Brown is AB 44 by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco. It requires a state-funded, full manual recount option, at the discretion of the governor, for any statewide office or ballot measure where the margin of victory is 0.015 percent or 1,000 votes, whichever is lower.
Mullin has said his bill aims to ensure fairness and accessibility for all voters and candidates. In the past, candidates have had to pay for the high cost of a recount even when results were extremely close.