A new bill that was recently moved into two Senate committees would give Californians visiting the DMV the choice not to change or update their information for voting records.
A new DMV kiosk prompt
Under Senate Bill 1295, authored by Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel), Californians would receive a prompt at an automated DMV kiosk saying “I’m already registered. Please do not edit or change my current registration.” with an option to click in the affirmative. If chosen, the DMV would not be able to give any voting information of that person to the California Secretary of State.
Current automated DMV kiosks allow people to update their current information to register to vote and to renew their voter registration. They also receive a prompt that says “I do not want to register to vote or update my voter registration information.”, that when clicked in the affirmative, removes them as a voter, forcing them to re-register if they made a mistake or misread the prompt.
According to Senator Bates, SB 1295 fixes that.
“DMV customers deserve clear information about voter registration,” explained Senator Bates in a statement. “My bill would simply eliminate any confusion regarding whether or not someone wants to update their existing information. It would be a small but vital step towards improving the integrity of California’s elections process.”
Senator Bates and supporters such as voting right groups have been highly motivated to change the DMV voting process not only because of many people being accidentally taking off voting rolls, but also because of the January failure of Senate Bill 57. That bill, also written by Senator Bates, would have stopped the opt-out process and ended the practice of automatically enrolling people to vote if they hadn’t registered yet, effectively ending the then four year old AB 1461 law that had started the process in the first place. Despite supporters explaining that the ‘Motor Voter’ law wouldn’t be scrapped and issues over needed identification for certain ID cards, SB 57 didn’t make it out of committee in January.
Opponents have said that an opt-out option is critical to getting as many voters as possible to register. Many have said that SB 1295 specifically isn’t so much about clarification as it is about voting areas.
“If you don’t update your information immediately, like at the DMV, then you may be in the wrong city or district in elections,” explained voting consultant Colt Nielson. “I agree with the Senator that we shouldn’t throw people off a voting list for a confused mis-click, but we shouldn’t allow people to stay in an area for voting if they moved, will have moved by the time they vote, or relocate. The number is low, but if you take a look at how many elections are within a few percentage points, a bunch of people doing that could possibly alter elections.”
“The big concern is losing voters, but having information not be changed is also very big.”
If SB 1295 is passed and signed by the Governor this year, the prompt would be changed at all DMV locations starting in 2021.