California will soon automatically register voters whenever they apply for or renew their driver licenses. But the newly-signed “Motor Voter” law may not be enough to increase turnout from last year’s historic low.
Barely 40 percent of registered voters cast ballots last November, and just over 30 percent of eligible voters participated.
Advocates believe "Motor Voter" will increase the number of actual voters, but acknowledge it’s just a start. So Secretary of State Alex Padilla and other elections officials are backing legislation that would allow California counties to move to an all-mail-ballot system.
“Where this has been done in other states, surprise, surprise – more people fill out their ballots and return them by mail, so turnout goes up,“ Padilla says. “But California’s a big state, and some people choose to go to the polls in person. And I believe they deserve that option.”
Yet Padilla’s proposal would abolish polling places in favor of far fewer voting centers: just one for every 15,000 registered voters. The current system requires one polling place for every 1,000 voters.
However, Californians could cast their ballots at any voting center in their county of residence. “Not only the place closest to where you live,“ Padilla says. “If it’s more convenient to vote closer to where you work, closer to where you drop your kids off at school, closer to the shopping mall, voters can have that option. And not just on election day itself, but for 10 days leading up to the election.”
California lawmakers will consider the bill next year.