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California's automatic voter registration bill advances

California's automatic voter registration bill advances
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla noted there are about 6.7 million state residents who are eligible but not registered. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A proposal to automatically register Californians to vote when they get a driver's license was approved Monday by a state Assembly panel after Secretary of State Alex Padilla noted there are about 6.7 million state residents who are eligible but not registered.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) modeled her bill on a new law in Oregon and said it is needed after the 42% record-low turnout in the November statewide election.

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"These concerning new lows are unacceptable," Gonzalez told the Assembly Transportation Committee. "We cannot allow this trends to continue."

Padilla said that 40,000 people went to his agency's website for information on registering to vote after the deadline for signing up in the last election. Under the new law, people who get a driver's license will be notified they have 21 days to object or they will be registered to vote if eligible.

"We ought to do anything and everything possible to ensure that people participate" in elections, Padilla said.

The measure, which goes to another Assembly committee next, was opposed by Republican committee members, including Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon), who said there are already other proposals to address the problem of people who are registered but don't vote.

"I haven't heard any evidence that the lack of registration is the reason people don't vote," Baker said.

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