Governor Brown Signs Motor-Voter Law

Voter-Regby Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald

A Motor-Voter Law and a series of other election laws have recently passed that have the potential to significantly impact upcoming elections and increase voter turnout. 

Gov. Brown signed a measure on Saturday that has the potential to register millions of Californians to vote when they go to DMV to renew or obtain their driver’s license. The measure also allows people to opt out of registering if they desire to not vote.

It is estimated that approximately 6 million plus Californians are eligible to register to vote and have not registered to vote yet, according to Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State. Padilla supported the legislation as a way to increase voter participation and make our democracy stronger. In a press release, Padilla stated, “The new Motor Voter Act will make our democracy stronger by removing a key barrier to voting for millions of California citizens.”

The governor also signed AB 363 (Steinorth R-Rancho Cucamonga) that will speed up election returns and allow county election officials to begin counting votes before the close of the polls on Election Day.

Opponents of the bill are concerned about the impact that the bill will have on discouraging voters who may think their vote will not make a difference.

Brown also approved AB 1504 a bill by Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) that allows Monterey and Sacramento counties to hold some all-mail ballot elections. San Mateo and Yolo counties have already tried out all-mail ballot elections. Proponents argue that the all-mail ballot elections save money while the opponents argue that these elections cause more wasteful mail pieces to be sent to voters and diminish the candidate to voter contact.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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    1. hpierce

      OK… here is the law:

      Suggest everyone read it for themselves, before weighing in, to minimize the inevitable BS, chest-thumping, scape-goating, etc.  [yeah, know that’s a longshot, but have to try]

      Please note that if BP’s statement is true (I haven’t fully drilled down into the law, but I believe it to be untrue or exaggerated), he/she has no concern about felons/ex-felons, who cannot vote in CA, but can get drivers’ licenses.  Or 16 year olds, entitled to get drivers’ licenses, but not eligible to vote.  Perhaps telling that only 1 of those three ineligible classes is of concern to BP?


      1. Barack Palin

        Hpierce, good morning, have a cup of joe and chill, you’ll live longer.  Good point you made about felons/ex-felons, yes that also concerns me, does this bill have the safeguards in it to keep them from voting too?

        Ms. Engelbrecht said California’s registration databases “lack the necessary safeguards to keep noncitizens off the voter rolls.”

        In California, however, state officials “specifically chose not to make noncitizen license holders searchable in their DMV database,” said True the Vote spokesman Logan Churchwell, who called the newly signed bill “unprecedented.” 

        1. Barack Palin

          The bill would also provide that if a person who is ineligible to vote becomes registered to vote by operation of this program, and that person votes or attempts to vote in an election held after the effective date of the person’s registration, that person shall be presumed to have acted with official authorization and is not guilty of fraudulently voting or attempting to vote, unless that person willfully votes or attempts to vote knowing that he or she is not entitled to vote.

          How many will slip through this little loophole and if caught (highly unlikely) just claim they didn’t know?

          1. David Greenwald

            Depends on how well the Sec of State’s office sets it up. They should be able to tap into criminal eligibility and citizenship records. If they do that properly, a person won’t be able to fraudulently register this way. They put the onus on the Sec of State to do it right, rather than the citizen to know they are eligible.

        2. hpierce

          Saw that, BP, weighed the sources, and found them questionable.  My source, on the other hand is FACT, not biased opinion. You want me to “chill” about my wish to get facts out there?  My observation that you appeared not to worry about two classes, which put together will likely meet or exceed the class you expressed concern about?

          My implied criticism that you rely on sources that support your “world view”, rather than looking and facts and coming to your own conclusions?

          But it is already clear that you are not alone on this site, in the latter regard, and so yeah, it was probably very naive and stupid of me to hope we could have a thoughtful, adult conversation on a topic near and dear to me.  Pretty much every election, I’ve served as a “gate-keeper” to ensure that those entitled to vote can do so, and those who aren’t, can’t (well they can vote ‘provisionally’, but us poll-workers can make comments on the provisional envelopes that pretty much weed out the questionable ones, by the true SME’s @ County Elections).

          On this particular issue, I’m a “semi” SME (subject matter expert).

        3. tribeUSA

          hp–whoa, chill out dude! BP raises some legitimate concerns, and as DG points out,it depends on how the sec. of state sets it up. It is legitimate to raise these concerns and convey such to the secretary of state, to be sure these issues are addressed with thorough safeguards in place.

    2. Eric Gelber

      BP may be interested (chagrined?) to learn that the ACLU agreed with him and opposed the bill. The concern is that individuals not eligible to vote will be mistakenly registered and then vote, which would jeopardize their ability to remain in the country.

      1. Barack Palin

        Figures tha ACLU would be more worried about what might happen to an illegal who attempts to cheat the voting system than the actual potential of how this new law might might infringe on the integrity of the vote.

        1. Davis Progressive

          one thing you forget, we have like a 30 percent turnout rate, it’s not like citizens are banging down the door to vote.  so why would people who aren’t supposed to vote be?

        2. Eric Gelber

          The impact of such errors on the integrity of the voting system would likely be negligible. The impact on individual families would be significant. I don’t necessarily agree with the ACLU on this issue; but, their position is principled and compassionate.

          1. David Greenwald

            If they have things like e-verify, why don’t you believe that Sec of State can screen people for criminal records and citizenship? Also, why is this method any more risky than the paper registration where people have to sign and affirm?

          2. Matt Williams

            BP, many people would agree with you . . . and as an example would choose that vote from the following list of 5 names


        3. hpierce

          BP… re: your 6:46 post… one illegal vote… that would be one vote by someone 17 years – 364 days old, one felon, one person whose immigration status is ‘unlawful’, one person who moved, and didn’t update their residence info, etc.  Or did you just mean one vote by “an illegal”?  And as you say, “one is too many”.

          I’m a bit more concerned, if one vote that should not be counted is too many, that that one vote come from someone who doesn’t understand the issues on the ballot, one “bullet voter”, one elderly mom/dad who can no longer drive due to diminished capacity, where their son/daughter have to assist them in the polls, one voter who is somewhat intoxicated, etc.

          So… must assume, based on the “one is too many” mantra, that you strongly believe that we completely eliminate vote by mail, and require each voter to present photo-ID (preferably with finger print and/or retinal scan), absolute proof of current residency, certified (embossed) birth certificate, certified “background check” (to verify no felons) in order to vote.  Ok, it would be a pain in the rear, but I suppose I could go with that.  Voter turn out would probably go to 1%, but if it makes you happy…

          Oh to save all you the trouble to tell me, I know I “should just chill”… while others feel free to rant/rave.

  1. Tia Will

    Now that illegals can obtain a driver’s license this new motor voter law lacks the safeguards to keeping illegals from voting in California”

    hpierce suggests that we all read the law before weighing in. I have another suggestion. If BP believes that there are insufficient safeguards, how about a factual accounting of what safeguards should have been included that are not there in his/her estimation ? That would save us all a lot of reading.

    1. hpierce

      Well Tia, it took me about 3 minutes to read the legislative counsels’s digest.  Pretty informative.  Suspect you’ve spent a bit more time than that to read and to respond to the VG posts which you have already done today.

      Or, is it just more fun to express a knee-jerk reaction to a knee-jerk reaction?

      1. Tia Will


        Or, is it just more fun to express a knee-jerk reaction to a knee-jerk reaction?”

        Apart from the joy of snakiness, what do you see as knee-jerk about asking a question ?

  2. Misanthrop

    section 2263 b 2(d) The department shall not electronically provide records of a person who applies for or is issued a driver’s license pursuant to Section 12801.9 of the Vehicle Code because he or she is unable to submit satisfactory proof that his or her presence in the United States is authorized under federal law.

    1. hpierce

      Interesting… clear that the passage means the info isn’t avail to the VG, INS, the public… not so clear if, internal to the State, whether Secretary of State (Elections) could use the info to keep voter registration rolls in compliance.  Still haven’t drilled down to see if that is elsewhere, but based on what I’ve seen in your post, that is a real concern that must be addressed (perhaps by follow-up legislation) prior to implementation.

      You raise a good point.  Thank you for reading the actual law, and for your post. The informed, adult converstion I was hoping for.

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