California to automatically register drivers to vote
October 12, 2015
California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law Saturday that will automatically register state residents to vote when they obtain or renew a driver’s license. [Mercury News]
Assembly Bill 1461, which was authored by Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, contains an opt-out clause for those who do not want to register to vote. Also, the new law applies only to residents who are eligible to vote.
California now issues driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, whom state and federal law prohibit from voting. Opponents of the bill argued the legislation would result in the state accidentally registering illegal immigrants to vote.
Supporters of AB 1461 say there are proper checks built in to prevent that from occurring.
Under the new law, legal residents who visit the Department of Motor Vehicles to apply for, renew or change the address on a driver’s license will be registered to vote by the Secretary of State’s Office, unless they opt out.
Lead proponent of the bill, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, said citizens should not have to opt-in to vote, which is a fundamental right like freedom of speech. Padilla said AB 1461 will help the 6.6 million Californians who are eligible to vote but have not yet registered.
California is the second state to adopt an automatic voter registration law. Oregon did so earlier this year. The law will take effect in California in January.