Monday, October 12, 2015

Jerry Brown Passes California Law That Will Automatically Register Drivers to Vote

On Saturday, October 10th, governor Jerry Brown of California signed legislation that automatically registers people as state voters when they get a driver's license. Because of voter identification laws, voter turnout in recent elections has been significantly low. This law is designed to increase voter participation as well as improve elections by allowing a new influx of voters to vote, and it is planned to take effect in January.
Governor Jerry Brown

In an article by the New York Times, California secretary of state Alex Padilla stated that in the past November election, "The 42 percent turnout of registered voters was a record low for a statewide general election; in addition, 6.6 million people who are eligible to vote are not registered." He believes that the "motor voter" law will increase participation by allowing people to skip the registration process at DMVs and automatically be registered to vote when they obtain a driver's license and if they are legally eligible to vote. People can opt out of voter registration, but if they don't act, they will automatically be registered. This makes it extra work to opt out and discourages people from doing so.

There is controversy over the possible effects of this law. Many people believe that it makes for a more democratic system because it allows a wider range of people to vote and doesn't limit certain groups from casting ballots like other state laws are starting to do. The signing of the law is seen as a victory for young minorities who make up a bulk of California's eligible unregistered voters.

However, some oppose the law because it could increase voter fraud, and by allowing people to vote with fewer restrictions, we could be allowing people with more limited knowledge of politics and policies or even non-citizens to vote. This could have negative effects and already eligible registered voters might see this new law as a threat.

This reminds me of the bureaucracies we have been talking about in class as well as how political parties play into elections. Do you think that this law is an improvement in expanding voter rights or does it go too far by registering even those that don't want to vote (and making it more work to not vote)? If contests for state government posts are usually partisan, how will registering all people with driver's licenses--which includes moderates--affect election results? Does this make it easier for non-citizens to vote, and what effects will that have? If we consider the DMV a bureaucracy, is it right that this law increases efficiency at the partial cost of personal choice?

New York Times
The Washington Times


Brianna Panozzo said...

Thanks for your post. Since this includes non-citizens that have drivers licenses, it could have some serious effect in the polls. Millions of illegal immigrants can now vote. Trump wouldn't like this much, and although I don't make a habit of agreeing with Trump, this legislation might not be in the best interests of California voting. Is increasing voter turnout that important? Maybe voting turnout is so low because only people who are educated in politics are voting. It might benefit everyone if people who know nothing of politics do not vote- this legislation encourages a kind of "blind" voting.

This law kind of increases efficiency. Now, you don't have to fill out the 10000 form at the DMV. Is it really that much of a difference though? I don't think this law is improving the efficiency of anything substantially. It doesn't even improve the efficiency of voting- in fact it just adds everyone's name to the list, even people who who probably didn't sign up at the DMV because they didn't want to vote in the first place. It really just takes personal choice away. It even has the potential to make things more complicated- what if people want to remove their names and how are we going to deal with voter fraud?

This law does benefit minorities. If we have to cherry pick one huge benefit from this law, it is that now, minorities can be more easily represented. In a diverse state like California, that is an extreme victory for many. Was this law the most effective way to go about this change? Maybe so, as long as it is enacted in a way that helps to prevent voter fraud. I guess we will see the effects soon enough!

Lea Tan said...

Brianna, you make a lot of good points. I think the biggest uproar about this law is caused by the fact that non-citizens could vote in state elections, and although this might help with voter turnout, it might not help with election results. As for efficiency, it only makes it more likely that more people will vote--because they are forced to unless they choose to specify otherwise (and fill out some kind of forms, I'd assume). People can remove their names, but voter fraud is definitely an issue.