Lawmakers Confront Badly Needed California Election Reform

Is the Legislature serious about saving participatory democracy in California? We'll find out. After an outcry earlier this year over the decline in voter registration and voting, lawmakers pledged to reform the election system this year. Yet with two weeks left in the legislative session, bills were either pushed to next year or are still waiting to be passed. 
 
The voting pattern in California is certainly grim enough. Statewide turnout of registered voters was 42% in the November 2014 election, with Los Angeles County at only 31%. Turnout was particularly low among Latino registered voters, at only 23%, and Asian and African- American voters, at 26%. In addition, nearly seven million eligible voters were not registered to vote. Many eligible voters failed to register due to lack of access and opportunity, according to experts. 
 
The public has been clear that it wants change, and two major bills, sponsored by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, would do that. AB 1461, introduced by Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez, would require the Department of Motor Vehicle to automatically register eligible voters who obtain a driver’s license or renew. It is modeled on Oregon’s “Motor Voter” law. SB 450, by Sen. Ben Allen, would allow counties to change to an all-mailed ballot election and expand the days allowed to cast the ballot. While SB 450 was put on hold until January, AB 1461 is moving  forward. 
 
 
Most Californians say it is a big problem that many people who are eligible to vote don’t always do so, according to a survey conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). One of the most frequently cited reasons by adults who are not registered to vote, apart from citizenship, is that they are too busy or don’t have enough time. For those who are registered but don’t vote, lack of time was the top reason. 
 
The PPIC survey said support was high for two proposals now in the Legislature: Automatically registering people to vote when they visit the DMV and automatically sending a vote-by-mail ballot to each registered voter. 
 
Will the Legislature do what they said they would do or allow voter reform slide by?

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