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CALPIRG Applauds Passage of AB 1461
Statement of Executive Director Emily Rusch:
A well-functioning democracy depends on the participation of its citizens.
Step one to participation in elections is being registered to vote, but 6.6 million eligible Californians were not registered in the 2014 election. The registration gap is most severe for young people. Only 52 percent of eligible youth between the ages of 18-24 were registered to vote before the last election. This is especially concerning because numerous studies have shown that voting is habit forming, and youth who vote are more likely to become life-long voters. Clearly our current systems to reach out and register new voters aren’t working.
In our 40-year history of working with young people and running non-partisan voter registration drives through the Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project, we have found that most young people want to and intend to participate in voting, but they need more information about the process of voting as well as the substance of what’s on the ballot.
Under AB 1461, the New Motor Voter Act, Californians who visit the Department of Motor Vehicles would be asked a few simple questions as part of their DMV visit in order for the Secretary of State to automatically register to vote citizens who are eligible and willing.
This bill will increase voter registration rates and help remove one barrier that prevents individuals from voting. Of course voter registration is only the first step to participation and is not a panacea to low voter turnout. It must be complimented by voter outreach and education in order to create an electorate that is engaged and informed. By facilitating voter registration, this bill will free up county elections officials and civic engagement groups like ours to be able to spend more resources on needed outreach, public education, and engagement, instead of voter registration.
We applaud the Secretary of State Alex Padilla, and Assemblymembers Lorena Gonzalez, Luis Alejo and Kevin McCarty, and urge Governor Jerry Brown to sign AB 1461 into law.
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