California Moves Towards a Real Motor Voter System

It looks like it’s just a matter of time (since legislation has passed both Houses of the legislature and some relatively minor differences need to be ironed out) until California becomes the second state where obtaining a driver’s license automatically (unless you opt out) registers you to vote. It’s the obvious step beyond “motor voter,” and it’s being billed as a response to California’s recently terrible turnout numbers.

In Oregon the new registration system works in tandem with the state’s universal mail ballot delivery process (everybody who’s registered gets a mail ballot, which they can mail back in or drop off at a polling station) to make it possible for all drivers to vote without an extra step. California currently has optional registration to receive a mail ballot, which well over half of registered voters are now choosing.

The only even theoretically legitimate objections to this approach are the worn-out and groundless complaints about “voter fraud.” All the California Senate Republicans voted against automatic registration, but that’s almost certainly because they perceive it as making mobilization of Democratic-leaning young and minority voters easier.

The sooner we begin to take seriously the idea of voting as a right rather than a privilege, the better, so far as I am concerned. If registration is basically just a paperwork requirement, then combining it with another paperwork requirement makes perfect sense.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.