California’s New Automatic Motor Voter Registration Law
On October 10, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill passed by the California State Assembly that will automatically register to vote all eligible voters when they obtain or renew their driver’s licenses at any California Department of Motor Vehicles branch, instead of requiring them to fill out a form. Those eligible may opt out of voter registration and those existing registered voters will still be able to change party affiliation or cancel their registration entirely. Approximately 6.6 million unregistered but eligible voters live in California; the new law attempts to ensure that these voters will be able to cast a ballot. State motor voter laws first originated with the passage of the Motor Voter Act of 1993, signed into law by then President Bill Clinton. That federal law requires states to offer voter registration opportunities to any eligible person who applies for or renews a driver's license or public assistance, requiring states to register applicants that use a federal voter registration form to apply, and prohibiting states from removing registered voters from the voter rolls unless certain criteria are met. Oregon became the first state to pioneer the registration opt-out in legislation which raised the registered voting population by 300,000 voters. Similar legislation is pending in sixteen other states. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently vetoed motor voter legislation in New Jersey which would have made the state the third in the country with an opt-out voter registration law.