State Assembly Approves Levine DMV Voter Registration Bill by a 54-13 Vote

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

AB 786 (Levine) Requires DMV to comply with Federal Motor Voter Law

With bipartisan support, today the Assembly approved legislation by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) to require the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to fully comply with federal law that allows motorists to register to vote at the DMV.

“This bill makes it easier for Californians to vote.  In 1993, Congress created the Motor Voter law to allow motorists to choose to register to vote when they apply for a driver’s license.  More than two decades later, California has yet to comply with that law,” said Assemblymember Levine.  “Motor Voter has been a tremendous success in other states but has been a dismal failure in California.  AB 786 will finally allow California motorists to register to vote at the DMV as Motor Voter intended.”

AB 786 requires the DMV to automatically send voter registration information to the Secretary of State whenever a motorist gets a new California driver’s license and certifies that s/he is eligible to vote in California.  This bill will bring California into full compliance with related provisions of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, otherwise known as “Motor Voter”.

AB 786 is supported by California Forward.  “It is important to ensure that California’s eligible voters are registered to vote and that the registration process is streamlined and painless as possible,” said Phillip Ung director of public affairs for California Forward Action Fund.  “Voter participation is at the core of our State government system.”

“The DMV must stop dragging its feet and fully implement Motor Voter registration. California has a dismal rate of voter registration and the DMV should be a critical access point for participating in our democracy,” said Helen Hutchison, president of the League of Women Voters of California.

“Registering to vote at the DMV should be easy and seamless.  Instead of creating barriers, we should be creating express lanes for full voter participation,” said Kathay Feng of California Common Cause.

Additionally, under current DMV procedures, voters occasionally are removed from the voter rolls in error when the voter notifies the DMV of a change of address.  In many cases, when a voter moves from one county to another, the DMV and the counties do not share information and coordinate.  Consequently, the voter may be removed from the rolls of the county that the voter left but is not yet added to the rolls of the county to which the voter is moving. 

This means that the voter is not registered to vote anywhere even though the voter intends to vote and believed that by making the change of address at the DMV, this change would automatically update the voter registration as well.

AB 786 will correct this anomaly by requiring that the DMV notify both counties when a voter moves from one county to another. 

“The proposed 2015-16 state budget includes funding for the DMV for voter registration.  I am encouraged and believe that California will soon come into compliance with Motor Voter,” concluded Levine.

Assemblymember Marc Levine represents the 10th Assembly District which includes Marin and Sonoma Counties.  Levine also authored AB 1122 in 2013 to require Motor Voter compliance by DMV.