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How To: Online Voter Registration Launches in California

Voters whose signature is already on file with the California Department of Motor Vehicles can submit their voter registration forms electronically.

Californians voters have until Oct. 22 to register for the November presidential election and now it is easier to do so, it was announced Wednesday.

Voters whose signature is already on file with the California Department of Motor Vehicles can submit their voter registration forms to county elections offices electronically by visiting RegisterToVote.ca.gov.

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who authored the measure, said it comes in stark contrast to controversial voter ID laws in Pennsylvania and Ohio, among other states aimed at reducing fraud, according to their proponents.

“This is an incredibly exciting day for California and for our democracy,” Yee said. “While some states are suppressing the rights of voters, here in California we are proudly increasing participation.”

Yee said the online registration system is an example of ways government can bring more voters to the polls, noting that just 44 percent of eligible California voters participated in the 2008 presidential race. He said six million eligible voters haven’t yet registered.

“As a model example of a democratic government, it is embarrassing that our voter participation rates are as low as they are,” Yee said. “We need to find new ways to increase voter participation and I am hopeful that making it easier to register will help get more people involved.”

Election officials say the plan will reduce costs and eliminate administrative errors. Arizona, which implemented a similar program five years ago, reports a decrease of up to 83 cents per registration, and a savings of more than $1 million alone in Maricopa County.

“Though most states still cannot offer online voter registration, I am thrilled to say the largest state in the nation is ready to roll. Today the Internet replaces the mailbox for thousands of Californians wanting to register to vote,” said Secretary of State Debra Bowen, California’s chief elections officer.

To register to vote, a Californian must complete a brief voter registration application on paper or online.

“Online or on paper, California’s laws and procedures for processing voter registration applications are identical. Security is a critical part of elections, and I want to emphasize this online application is not ‘automatic registration.’ The information provided in an online application still must be verified by a county elections official before an applicant can be added to the voter rolls," Bowen said.

Paper applications are still available at many government offices, DMV offices, post offices, public libraries, and more.

When a person registers online, the system will search the DMV database for the applicant’s California driver license or identification card number, date of birth, and last four digits of the applicant’s Social Security number.

If the information is found and the applicant authorizes elections officials’ use of the DMV signature, an electronic image of the DMV signature will be added to that voter registration application.

If there is no signature on file with DMV, all of the applicant’s information will still be transmitted to the county elections office; the applicant will just need to click “print,” then sign the paper application and mail it. (California law requires that the applicant sign the voter registration application, which is considered a legal affidavit.)

As always, the county elections official will contact the applicant when the voter registration application is approved or when more information is needed to confirm eligibility.

Residents of California are eligible to vote if they are U.S. citizens; at least 18 years old by Election Day; not in prison or county jail (serving a state prison sentence or a term of more than one year in jail for a defined “low-level” felony) or on parole, post-release community supervision or post-sentencing probation for a felony conviction; and not judged by a court to be mentally incompetent.

A person must re-register to vote after moving, changing names or changing political party preference.

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