Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano used California's newly-approved law that automatically registers voters when they obtain or renew a driver's license to fearmonger that undocumented immigrants will now be able to vote - but experts and election officials say the new law “is actually a more secure way of doing things” and will likely improve California's legal voter participation, which hit a record-low turnout in the 2014 midterm elections.
California Approves Measure To Implement Automatic Voter Registration
NPR: “California Becomes 2nd State To Automatically Register Voters.” On October 11, California Governor Jerry Brown “approved legislation that automatically registers citizens to vote when they obtain or renew driver's licenses or state identification cards,” as NPR reported:
In a move lawmakers hope will drive more Californians to the polls, Gov. Jerry Brown approved legislation that automatically registers citizens to vote when they obtain or renew driver's licenses or state identification cards.
The measure, known as the “New Motor Voter Act,” was signed into law Saturday. California joins Oregon as the second state in the nation opting to register voters through its department of motor vehicles. Oregon passed its law in March.
California's Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement the law will “make voter registration seamless” and it would amount to “the largest voter registration drive in the nation's history.” [NPR, 10/11/15]
Fox & Friends Uses New California Law To Stoke Fears That Undocumented Immigrants Will Be Able To Vote
Andrew Napolitano: California “Is Going To Provide Shelter For Illegals To Vote.” During a discussion about California's newly-approved voter registration law on the October 13 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano cited the law to raise alarm that “the state is going to provide shelter for illegals to vote”:
STEVE DOOCY: The state of California has passed legislation that will automatically register eligible voters when they obtain or renew a driver's license. Governor Jerry Brown says it's a way to increase voter turnout, but critics warn the measure could add millions of illegal people to the rolls because the state allows undocumented aliens to get driver's licenses. That's a problem, isn't it, Judge Napolitano?
ANDREW NAPOLITANO: Yes, yes. Good morning, Steve. Yes, it is a problem because the other states, including our own home state of New Jersey, which permit registration at the time you get a driver's license, have you go through another procedure in which you have to demonstrate citizenship.
DOOCY: You've got to prove you're here legally.
NAPOLITANO: Correct, correct. California, it's one procedure. You may not even know that when you get your driver's license you're also being registered to vote. And there's no requirement of proof of citizenship. What's the significance of proof of citizenship? All 50 states limit voting to citizens except when the state allows you to sort of sneak in without proving your citizenship by getting a driver's license instead.
DOOCY: Sure. And one of the things they'd look to is, the Supreme Court in the past has said that the right to drive in the United States is fundamental. However, they don't say you have to be an American citizen, per se. But what about the right to vote?
NAPOLITANO: You know, there's a lot of debate -- without getting too academic about what the right to vote is. Is it a fundamental right that comes from our humanity like thought and speech and association and worship and self-defense? Or is it a privilege given by the government? In my view, the Supreme Court has wrongly said it's a fundamental right. And once it said that, states like California decided to allow people to vote who aren't qualified by law to vote because of the fundamental aspect.
DOOCY: Those are for state elections.
NAPOLITANO: For any election in California.
DOOCY: But it's against the law on federal elections?
NAPOLITANO: Yes, it is. But there's really no way to monitor it. So if you are an illegal alien in California, get a driver's license, register to vote, you can vote in local, state, and federal elections in California and those votes count.
DOOCY: Interesting stuff.
NAPOLITANO: It's almost impossible to monitor this if the state is going to provide shelter for illegals to vote.
DOOCY: And so that's what is going to happen out in California. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/13/15]
Experts And Election Officials Say California's New Law Will Help Register Millions Of Eligible Voters And May “Boost Election Security”
Brennan Center For Justice: Automatically Registering Voters “Could Add Millions To The Rolls, Save Money, And Boost Election Security.” According to the Brennan Center for Justice, with “nearly 7 million eligible Californians who are not registered to vote,” California's new law “could make a huge dent in that problem” as well as “save money, and boost election security”:
California's legislature passed a bill enacting automatic voter registration. Gov. Jerry Brown should sign it and bring 21st century registration to the Golden State.
There are nearly 7 million eligible Californians who are not registered to vote. Automatically signing up voters could make a huge dent in that problem. Here's how it works: First, eligible citizens are registered to vote when they are at a DMV office, unless they decide they do not want to be signed up. That is a subtle, but impactful change. The current method keeps eligible citizens off the voting rolls unless they take an action to get themselves registered. Second, the DMV will electronically transfer voter registration information instead of making election officials hand-enter data from paper forms.
These two changes may sound small, but it would transform the state's system by putting the burden of registration where it should be -- on the government. This could add millions to the rolls, save money, and boost election security by reducing typos and mistakes.
The country needs it. Our election system is broken in many ways -- a common lament in election years -- but voter registration is one of its greatest flaws. Fifty million eligible Americans are not registered to vote, and 1 in 8 registrations nationwide have serious errors. Much of the problem stems from our old-fashioned, ink-and-paper system, which leads to incomplete and error-ridden rolls.
Making matters worse, states pushed through a wave of restrictive voting laws in recent years, and the Supreme Court enfeebled a key protection under the Voting Rights Act. The result: Too many Americans experience registration difficulties while also facing greater obstacles to the ballot.
California can take important steps forward with this voting reform bill. To be sure, automatic registration needs safeguards to ensure that only eligible citizens are added, that those who do not wish to participate have that option, and that people registered because of government error are not punished for it. But California, like Oregon before it, can put these checks in place. [Brennan Center for Justice, 9/26/15]
CA Sec. Of State In ThinkProgress: New Law “Could Help Bring The 6.6 Million California Citizens Who Are Eligible ... To Vote Into The Democratic Process ” And Will “Particularly Benefit Voters Of Color.” In an interview with ThinkProgress, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla noted that the state's ability to automatically register millions of eligible voters will help address “California's dismally low election participation rate” and “particularly benefit voters of color”:
“Citizens are currently forced to opt-in to their fundamental right to vote through registration,” said Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who wrote the bill and pushed for its passage. “We do not have to opt-in to other rights. We do not have to opt-in to free speech or due process. The right to vote should be no different.”
In an interview earlier this year, Padilla told ThinkProgress the new law could help bring the 6.6 million California citizens who are eligible but not registered to vote into the democratic process.
Padilla's office reported that on Election Day last year, more than 40,000 people logged on to the Secretary of State website trying to register to vote. “Unfortunately it was too late,” he said.
The new “motor voter” law is just one of several steps aimed at addressing California's dismally low election participation rate -- one of the worst in the nation. Just over 42 percent of eligible voters turned out in last fall's election. In Los Angeles County, just 31 percent of registered voters cast a ballot.
Automatic registration is expected to particularly benefit voters of color. Currently, only 62.8 percent of Latino and 50.7 percent of Asian-American residents are registered in California. Latinos, who recently surpassed whites to become the largest demographic group in the state, have the lowest participation rate: just 28 percent of them cast ballots in 2014. [ThinkProgress, 10/10/15]
California's New Voting System Will Be “More Secure” And Will Require Documents That Typically Show Proof Of Citizenship
CA Secretary Of State Alex Padilla: New Automatic Voter Registration “Is Actually A More Secure Way Of Doing Things, And Will Require More ”Than Someone Checking A Box Under Penalty Of Perjury." In an interview with the Huffington Post, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla explained that the state's new system “is actually a more secure way of doing things” and that before voters are registered they “have to demonstrate proof of age, the vast majority of time people are showing a birth certificate or a passport, which also reflects citizenship”:
The way automatic registration works is relatively simple: Eligible citizens are registered to vote when they show up at a Department of Motor Vehicles office to obtain a driver's license or state ID. The DMV gives the eligible voter a chance to opt out if they prefer not to register. If the person does not opt out, the DMV electronically transfers their voter registration information to the Secretary of State's office, rather than making election officials enter data by hand from paper registration forms. (The federal National Voter Registration Act of 1993 already requires states to give eligible voters the opportunity to register to vote when they apply for a new or renewed driver's license.)
Republicans who are opposed to automatic registration argue that the practice is a privacy risk and could make it easier for noncitizens to commit voter fraud. In addition, they argue that is isn't difficult to fill out a registration form and that automatic registration is a form of coercion, forcing people to participate in the democratic process when they may prefer to stay out of it.
Defenders of automatic registration argue that the practice is more secure than the current system of collecting paper registration forms and that those who are newly registered aren't forced to vote.
“Automated voter registration is actually a more secure way of doing things,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla told HuffPost in September. Potential voters “have to demonstrate proof of age, the vast majority of time people are showing a birth certificate or a passport, which also reflects citizenship. That's arguably more secure than someone checking a box under penalty of perjury,” Padilla said. [Huffington Post, 10/10/15]