Thursday, February 18, 2016

SLS Intern Contribution: Motor Voter Decoder

By SLS Legal Research and Writing Intern Matt Adamo

"VOTE" by Theresa Thompson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

     Have you ever wondered how we can positively impact our futures by exerting minimal effort? Everyone wants to change the world, but no one knows where to begin. A representative democracy allows each citizen to influence any political decision that may or may not immediately affect their personal lives. With that knowledge, how come political participation among young adults is so lackadaisical?

     California legislators are working diligently to provide its citizens with a more convenient and efficient method for voter registration. Many states are slowly implementing laws that could potentially restrict voter access, possibly in violation of the U.S. Constitutional. California, on the other hand, recently passed legislation on October 10, 2015 making it the second state to register eligible voters automatically. The intent of the legislators for the New Motor Voter Program is to “provide California citizens additional opportunities to participate in democracy through exercise of their fundamental right to vote.”

     University students have a lot on their plate, from classes, jobs, and extracurriculars, which emphasizes one reason legislators advocated efficiency in the voting and registration processes. In the most recent midterm election, only 52 percent of California’s 1824 year olds were registered to vote, which is over twenty percent lower than the California average. Under previous law, a Californian voter must register through an affidavit of registration on or before the fifteenth day before an election. This law produces unnecessary stress for any citizen attempting to vote, but more specifically young adults registering for their first time.

     The New Motor Voter Program will automatically register eligible voters at the Department of Motor Vehicles when one acquires an identification card or driver’s license. Contrary to popular belief, the DMV will not be determining voter eligibility; the Secretary of State will remain responsible for this task to avoid any illegal registrations. The legislators who produced the New Motor Voter Program hope to improve the participation of the younger generations by expediting the registration process. The program hopes to witness a larger impact on millennials because of our historically low participation rates in contemporary politics.

     The only way to establish a democracy truly representative of the majority opinion is by ensuring that each citizen votes. The New Motor Voter Program in California provides a primary foundation to improve voter participation rates among all citizens, but more importantly 18-24 year olds. California legislators are working hard to encourage higher political participation, so we should return the favor by getting out to vote. Feel free to contact Student Legal Services for more information about how the New Motor Voter Program or any other relevant legislation can affect your lives as college students.