Earlier today, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that would make his state the second in the country (along with Oregon) to automatically register people getting driver's licenses as voters.
While citizens can opt-out of the voter registration system, the move to automatic enrollment comes after record low voter participation in last year's elections. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla went on record after the signing as saying the right to vote is "fundamental," and that as with other rights such as free speech, the people should not have to opt-in as with the right to vote.
There has been much debate over voting rights in recent months, and I am all for measures such as this, because it not only makes voting easier (are you listening, Alabama?), but it also ties voting to having a photo ID, another issue that can create quite a bit of contention. I'm not as sure I would completely agree with Padilla's take on fundamental rights, especially given the government's ability and willingness to take away those fundamental rights (such as voting) when the circumstances dictate. I guess we should just take the small victories and hope they keep adding up.
But in a state that also issues driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, how will this affect the automatic enrollment plan? I'm not trying to cast shadows of suspicion on this voting measure, but is there going to be a mechanism in place to prevent illegal immigrants from being registered as voters? Growing up in Illinois, I am already used to dead people voting, but I know it's a whole different set of messes in California.
Then again, while it's nice to have a more significant portion of your population registered to vote, how do you then address the other problems inherent with the voting process, such as independent and third-party candidate access, and even getting people to the ballot boxes in the first place? If the people that are already registered aren't rushing polling places on Election Day, how is making sure there are more people registered going to improve those numbers?
Winner, The Blogitzer
(Best Overall Writing)
2011 Blogger's Choice Awards