SACRAMENTO, July 25, 2018 — California voting rights organizations today praised the California Motor Voter program for dramatically increasing statewide voter registration. The joint effort between the Secretary of State and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) processed nearly 800,000 voter registration transactions at the DMV from late April through June and ensures voter registration will be convenient and voter rolls more accurate going forward.
"We need to build a democracy where everyone participates, every vote is counted, and everyone's voice is heard, and California Motor Voter is moving us in that direction," said Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause. "With nearly 800,000 new, updated and re-registrations processed right out of the gate, it's clear that this process is working and making a big impact."
In a report on California Motor Voter released today, Secretary of State Alex Padilla reported the top three new categories of voter registration transactions: 393,020 re-registrations for people changing their name, party affiliation or other data; 259,294 new registrations for people not previously on the rolls; and 120,016 updated addresses for previously registered voters. You can view the report here.
Through California Motor Voter, eligible Californians who complete a driver's license, identification (ID) card, or change of address transaction online, by mail or at a DMV office, are automatically registered to vote, unless they opt out. To be eligible, customers must verify they are a U.S. citizen, a resident of California and at least 18 years old, among other qualifications. The application is fully accessible, offered in 10 languages and includes pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds.
"Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy but, for years, difficulty registering to vote has been one of the greatest barriers preventing countless eligible Americans – particularly people of color and other marginalized communities – from exercising their fundamental right to vote," said Raul Macias, Manager of the ACLU of California Voting Rights Project. "With the California Motor Voter, the state has taken a significant step towards addressing this problem and strengthening our democracy."
"We welcome the DMV's decision to install an accessible computer for customers in every DMV office in California," said Paul Spencer from Disability Rights California (DRC). "This will allow customers with disabilities to privately and independently complete their applications and register to vote."
"There was great effort to design a system to serve a wide variety of DMV customers," said Michelle Lim, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles. "Whether you're a young person, an immigrant, or an individual with a disability, automatic voter registration should be intuitive and user-friendly."
Support for programs like California Motor Voter is building momentum nationally. California was the third state to pass a law to register eligible voters automatically at the DMV when Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law in 2015. Today, California joins 13 other states, including Colorado, Illinois, Oregon and West Virginia that have implemented or adopted automatic voter registration programs.
"The goal of California Motor Voter is to improve the accuracy of voter rolls and make voter registration more convenient for Californians," Feng said. "With more than 6 million eligible but unregistered citizens -- over 24 percent of eligible voters according to state estimates -- the measure could dramatically boost participation in elections."
"These new registration numbers from California clearly show that this commonsense reform is already having a big impact in modernizing the voter registration process and improving the accuracy of voter rolls to ensure smoother elections and that fewer voters will have to cast provisional ballots due to an error on the rolls," said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. "From California and Colorado to Illinois and Rhode Island, Common Cause has helped lead the fight to pass similar reforms to build a democracy where everyone participates, every vote is counted, and everyone's voice is heard."
Groups that worked on the development of the new California Motor Voter program include ACCE, ACLU, ACLU of California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, Brennan Center, California Common Cause, California Immigrant Policy Center, Demos, Disability Rights California, Future of California Elections, League of Women Voters California, NALEO, and UnidosUS.
Customers headed to the DMV are encouraged to fill out the driver's license and ID card application online and to make an appointment to reduce their wait time. To access the application and make an appointment, visit www.dmv.ca.gov. To learn more about the new California Motor Voter Program, visit motorvoter.sos.ca.gov or commoncause.org/ca.