California approves election-day voter registration

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While a number of Republican-controlled state governments press for measures to restrict the vote, California's Democratic governor signed a bill last week allowing voters to register up to and on Election Day.

"Voting - the sacred right of every citizen - should be simple and convenient," California Democratic Governor Jerry Brown said September 24 after signing the bill into law. "While other states try to restrict voters with new laws that burden the process, California allows voters to register online - and even on Election Day."

Last week, California voters began registering to vote online for the first time under another bill that Brown signed into law last year.

The package of bills signed by the governor last week designed to further democratize California's election laws also included one making it easier for vote-by-mail voters to let others drop off their ballot.

The California Election Day Voter Registration Bill, AB 1436 by Democratic Assemblyman Mike Feuer, was contested along partisan lines.

The Democratic majority in the state legislature said it would encourage more voter participation while Republicans argued it would encourage fraud.

However, an exhaustive study of all 50 states released in August by News21 revealed, "In-person voter impersonation on Election Day, which prompted 37 state legislatures to enact or consider tough voter ID laws, is virtually non-existent."

A broad coalition - including civil rights, civil liberties and labor organizations as well as the Democratic Party - now combating these Republican-inspired voter suppression initiatives argue they would disenfranchise large segments of the electorate, including African Americans, Latinos, youth and other sectors likely to vote Democratic.

Meanwhile, ten other states besides California, including Iowa and Minnesota, allow some form of same-day registration and voting, according to a legislative analysis.

California currently cuts off voter registration 15 days before an election. The new law will take effect once California implements a new statewide voter database, which will not be completed until at least 2014.

Photo: Image by League of Women Voters of California // CC 2.0

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