Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
October 27, 2015

  • New law aimed at using DMV to boost voter registration
  • Effects will be slow in coming and uncertain
  • Packing voter rolls could reduce turnout

Judging from Twitter traffic and other indices of political weather, Democratic activists are downright giddy about California’s new “motor voter” law.

They see the state’s voter rolls swelling by more than 6 million persons, most of whom would be Democrats, leading to higher voter turnouts and protecting the party’s candidates from otherwise declining participation.

Had the measure, Assembly Bill 1461, passed in its almost-final form, that buoyant attitude might have been justified.

To get enough votes for Senate passage, however, it underwent a major change, weakening its potential impact.

Previously, it had said those who applied to the Department of Motor Vehicles for new driver’s licenses or identification cards, renewed them or changed addresses would be automatically registered to vote and then contacted after the fact for verification – emulating Oregon’s program.

The change on Sept. 4 said that the DMV would register those who confirm they are eligible to vote (age 18 or older and citizens) unless they decline. Thus, it’s merely a relatively minor change from current law, under which the DMV offers voter registration to its customers.

While Democratic politicians, unions and other allies still supported the revised bill, civil rights and immigrant advocacy groups pulled off before the final vote, believing that it didn’t go far enough.

To read expanded column, click here.