By Cheyenne Galloway
SACRAMENTO, CA – In March, the California Grassroots Democracy Coalition —an association comprising 140+ grassroots organizations committed to empowering disenfranchised and disadvantaged communities in California through reform and activism—began an unprecedented campaign to increase voting to reflect the state’s diverse population.
According to Alexis Meisels of Change Consulting, the coalition hopes to give a voice to the disinvested and disenfranchised communities in the Golden State.
The campaign, otherwise known as SB 299, ensures complete voter registration for California residents by using people’s interaction with a state agency such as the DMV or Medicaid—SB 299 will automatically register them if qualified.
After months of collaboration and engagement among the coalition, the Governor’s office, the Secretary of State, the DMV, the California Association of Clerks, Election Officials, Assemblymembers and Senators, SB 299, authored by Senators Monique Limón and Caroline Menjivar, will be debated in the 2024 legislative session.
A recent poll by Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies revealed most of California’s voters are old, white, and/or wealthy, which does not accurately represent the entire state.
SB 299 proponents note California’s current voter population stems from voter registration barriers that exclusively bar younger, less educated, lower income, immigrants, renting residents, and formerly incarcerated citizens from political participation.
The poll figures demonstrate the Golden State undoubtedly has the largest unregistered population, “with 4.7 million eligible but unregistered voters.” Reportedly, three-quarters of Californians expressed apprehension towards the low voting engagement rates of younger and more diverse Californians.
Meisel quotes Sen. Limón, “While we have made great strides to expand voter registration, many continue to be left out of our democratic process. Women are being left behind at the ballot box with a staggering two million eligible but unregistered women in the Golden State.
“Similarly, Latino voters are underrepresented, with just 35 percent of adult Latinos registering to vote. It is critical we remove barriers to accessing the ballot box and give every eligible voter the opportunity to cast their vote.”
Proponents of the measure said more registered voters create a more comprehensive range of voices and, in turn, representation to address critical issues affecting the majority, if not all Californians, including but not limited to quality education, economic mobility, affordable housing, accessible healthcare, and criminal justice.
“Voting is one of the most powerful ways to initiate change in the United States, and simplifying voter registration will have an instant and dramatic effect on voter participation throughout California,” stated co-author Sen. Menjivar.
The lawmaker added, “We have taken significant steps in the right direction, but much more can be done to lift up the voices of historically disenfranchised communities. SB 299 can address our registration gap and empower more Californians to exercise their right to vote in every election.”