California Brings Voting Into The 21st Century By Allowing Online Registration

In April, ThinkProgress wrote an article about the next frontier in voting rights: online voter registration. Just nine states – as well as Clark County, Nevada – currently allow their citizens to register online, but voting rights took a major step forward this week as the nation’s largest state enacted a bill to give its tens of millions of eligible voters a 21st-century option for registering.

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law SB 397 on Friday, which is expected to lead to significant increases in voter registration and participation rates. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 39 percent of eligible Californians – nearly 9 million people – were not registered to vote in 2010.

The Sacramento Bee has more:

Senate Bill 397, by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, allows to state to begin registering voters online ahead of the completion of a new statewide voter registration database. […]

Supporters had argued that the bill would make it easier for Californians to register to vote, increasing voter participation.

“In the 21st century, especially here in California, it is long overdue to have online voter registration,” Yee said in a statement. “SB 397 will not only help protect the integrity of the vote, but will allow many more individuals the opportunity to register and participate in our democracy.”

Brown also protected California voting rights by vetoing SB 205, which would have prohibited “paying canvassers to register voters on a per-registration basis.” Explaining his veto, Brown said, “Efforts to register voters should be encouraged, not criminalized.”

California’s move stands in stark contrast to recent efforts in other states to restrict, rather than expand, access to the ballot box. In Maine, the secretary of state’s office used a GOP list to intimidate student voters into re-registering in other states last month. Meanwhile, numerous GOP-led states have enacted so-called voter ID laws that do little more than disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of poor and minority voters. In Tennessee, a 96-year-old African-American woman was denied a voter ID last week because she didn’t have her marriage license. She told MSNBC that her experience in 2011 is worse than what she went through in the Jim Crow era.