Californians will now be automatically registered to vote the next time they get their drivers license renewed.
On Saturday, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB1461, also known as the California New Motor Voter Act, which will automatically have each eligible voter's information sent to the Secretary of State's office when he or she applies for or renews their driver's license or state ID at the DMV. Around 6 to 7 million Californians eligible to vote are not registered, and officials expect this to improve voter participation in the state. "In a free society, the right to vote is fundamental," said Secretary of State Alex Padilla in a statement. "Government should not impede a citizen's right to vote."
Padilla said the new law "will make our democracy stronger by removing a key barrier to voting for millions of California citizens."
Critics say the move is unnecessary and that automatic registration could lead to voter fraud. Applicants will have the option to opt-out when applying for their license or ID card. According to the AP California is the second state in the country to have automatic voter registration, after Oregon passed a bill in March.
The bill has been heavily pushed by voting rights groups like iVote and the Brennan Center for Justice. As HuffPost Politics points out, the United States is one of the few developed countries where the burden is on the voter to register to vote.
"Citizens should not be required to opt-in to their fundamental right to vote," said Padilla. "We do not have to opt-in to other rights, such as free speech or due process. The right to vote should be no different."