Assembly OKs two different approaches to boost voter registration

Automatic voter registration proposal backed by @AlexPadilla4CA passes Assembly

In a bid to improve California's lagging voter participation, lawmakers in the Assembly approved two measures Tuesday that aim to increase registration among eligible citizens.

One bill, by Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael), would require the Department of Motor Vehicles to satisfy the existing federal "Motor Voter" law, under which eligible individuals can choose to register to vote when getting a drivers license at the DMV.

"For 22 years, the DMV has only partially complied with Motor Voter," said Levine. "Because of this partial compliance, Motor Voter has been a failure in California."

Levine noted that Gov. Jerry Brown had set aside money to update the department's technology, making such compliance possible.

His bill, AB 786, passed the Assembly on a 53-13 vote.

The second measure, backed by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, would require the DMV to automatically send voter registration information of eligible citizens to the state when they obtain or renew a drivers license.

The citizens could then choose to opt out of the voter registration after being notified by the secretary of state. A similar measure was signed into law in Oregon in March.

"The California New Motor Voter Act aims to make voter registration easier when citizens interact with the DMV, thereby increasing opportunities for eligible citizens to participate in our democracy," Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) said of her bill.

Republicans were less supportive of the bill. Assemblywoman Catherine Baker (R-San Ramon) said the automatic registration "takes away the choice of citizens in this country to decide whether or not to register to vote."

The bill, AB 1461, passed on a 45-25 vote.

Acknowledging the dueling policy approaches of the two proposals, Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) said both measures have advanced because it was "a discussion [that was] important to have on the Assembly floor." 

Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.

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