The process of registering to vote in California changed significantly on Wednesday, Sept. 19. New residents and Californians who've changed an address, party affiliation or name since the last election can now go to RegisterToVote.ca.gov and register online. Not that you can't still do it the old fashioned way with pen and paper, just that you don't have to.
The step-by-step online procedure needs little by way of explanation, though you will need your driver's license number and the last four digits of your Social Security number. You don't have to have an address -- there is a provision if you're homeless -- but you will need a mail drop of some kind. The online process is only an application to register. Actual registration comes via a card in the U.S. Mail, but only after officials have validated the information in the application, said Adam Keigwin, chief of staff for state Sen. Leland Yee.
Sen. Yee, whose district includes Woodside and Portola Valley, is the author of the bill behind the new online system. The governor signed SB 397 in 2011; the bill passed the Senate and the state Assembly on party-line votes. The law went into effect Jan. 1, 2012, but took months to implement, Mr. Keigwin said. Would-be voters in the November election have until Oct. 22 to register.
"This is an incredibly exciting day for California and for our democracy," Sen. Yee said in a statement released by his office. "While some states are suppressing the rights of voters, here in California we are proudly increasing participation."
About 44 percent of Californians eligible to vote actually voted in the 2008 presidential election, and more than six million could have voted but are not registered, the statement said.
"Senator Yee's law will not only increase voter registration, it will increase the accuracy of the registration information, and reduce election costs," said Mark Church, the chief election officer in San Mateo County. "Everyone wins."
Mr. Keigwin said that while he did not have information on projected savings statewide, Arizona reduced the cost of individual voter registration by 83 cents. Maricopa County, with 1.8 million registered voters, saved $1 million over five years, Mr. Keigwin said.
The online system should save money by reducing data-entry time by clerks in the elections office and errors caused by illegible handwriting, Mr. Keigwin said.