As the nation gears up for another election season, California lawmakers are considering a bill that would increase voter registration in the Golden State.
Senate Bill 846 would expand the state’s Motor Voter Program to automatically sign up eligible but unregistered residents. Senators Caroline Menjivar and Monique Limón, both Democrats, introduced the legislation, which seeks to register about 5 million more voters.
As of May 2022, California has about 21.9 million registered voters, about 82% of the 26.9 million adults in the state who are eligible to vote, according to a Public Policy Institute of California report.
However, researchers did find that those likely to vote in California are disproportionately white, older, more educated, affluent, natural-born U.S. citizens and homeowners.
The bill, should it pass, would remove barriers to increasing voter registration among people of color, women, and other harder-to-reach populations in the state, Senator Limón said in a news release.
“California is no stranger to making election improvements, from creating the first version of automatic voter registration, to making it possible for all registered voters to vote by mail. Now, we have the opportunity to take the next step in modernizing California’s elections,” Senator Limón said in a statement.
“SB 846 will broaden access to the ballot box for all eligible voters.”
Supporters of the bill, like the California Grassroots Democracy Coalition, say it will help the state address voter participation gaps, remove voter registration barriers and increase the accuracy of voter polls.
California’s Motor Voter program, implemented in 2018, registers eligible residents completing a driver’s license, state identification, or change of address transaction unless they opt out.
While the current process has been successful, the bill would expand the process by automatically registering people who complete a transaction at the DMV first, and then providing the option via mail to opt out later.
The system would also screen out non-citizens and others ineligible to vote during the process.
Several states, such as Alaska, Massachusetts, Oregon, Colorado, Delaware and the District of Columbia, have passed similar legislation and have been met with positive results, according to Senator Limón.
The bill still needs to be approved by both legislature houses and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to become law.