Here’s some good news (for a change) that has seemed to go under the radar until now. Did you know about California Senate Bill 397 that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in October? The bill, authored by State Senator Leland Yee will make online voter registration available in California for the first time. The changes are expected to be in effect in time for the general election in 2012. In fact, the system may be available in some counties in time for the California primary in early June 2012.
Strangely enough, this major breakthrough has not been reported on or publicized. Information and details are very limited, but we do know that new software is being developed for the California Secretary of State to enable online voter registration through county registrar websites.
However, once the software is made available by the Secretary of State’s office a staff member in Senator’s Sacramento office, Michelle Kim, tells us that it will be up to individual counties to request and offer online voter registration to eligible voters. In counties that opt-in, online voter registration will be available for those with a valid California driver’s license or state ID card. Mail-in or in person voter registration will still be available for people who do not have either forms of identification. California is finally following in the footsteps of several other states in the country that currently offer online voter registration including Washington, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Delaware, Florida, Michigan, Colorado, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Arizona.
This development will be a great way to register our peers and students throughout the state. 93% of young adults in the U.S. use the Internet. Research shows that more young people register to vote in states that offer online voter registration. Online voter registration also cuts costs, saving the state money.
Online voter registration is a national trend that counters the horrible restrictive voter ID laws conservative legislators have passed this year. Seeing legislative changes like SB 397 are very encouraging in a time where many states are disenfranchising their constituents. Voter Identification laws suppress the vote among young people, immigrants, people of color, women, the poor, and the elderly.
This is a great development for California, and ties into the Feminist Majority Foundation’s “Get Out HER Vote” Campaign. The campaign reinforces the importance of registering to vote and voting among young women. There are many issues at stake this election: Title X cuts, reproductive rights, immigrant’s rights, environment, LGBTQ rights, just to name a few.
Stay tuned so you can find out how you can help make sure every county in California opts-in and provides online voter registration once the technology is available. We will be updating as new information is received so we make sure our voices are heard in 2012!