Potential voters: Do you want to improve education, expand health care or fix the economy? Those are a few of the challenges facing our state that require the attention of every eligible citizen to turn out and vote on Election Day.
However, to address those issues fully, we must reverse the state’s 30-year downward slide in voter turnout. The situation is becoming quite serious. In the March primary election, we experienced the lowest voter participation since 1924.
Proposition 52, the Election Day Voter Registration Initiative on the November ballot, would involve more people in the election process by making it possible to register and vote on Election Day. The initiative is based on the principle that voting is a fundamental right and responsibility. All Californians should have the opportunity to influence the decisions that will affect their everyday lives.
Prop. 52 cuts through the red tape in the voter-registration process while increasing penalties for those who might abuse the right to vote by committing voter fraud. The initiative would allow legally eligible voters to register and vote on Election Day after showing valid ID to prove they are in their correct polling place.
The current voting system in California, with arbitrary and unrealistic deadlines for registration, can discourage many voters from getting out to the polls. Californians should not be penalized for not filling out forms months in advance. Many political campaigns do not even begin to communicate with voters until two weeks out from Election Day—well past the current registration deadline.
Prop. 52 is a proven way to increase voter participation. A recent study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology shows that the plan increases voter turnout by between 3 percent and 6 percent. This would translate to almost a million more voters here in California.
In fact, the plan already has been successful in other states. In Wisconsin, where such an initiative has been in place for 25 years, 65 percent of eligible voters participated in the 2000 presidential election, compared with just 52 percent in California. Many experts say this is the only real reform that increases voter participation.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 removed poll taxes and literacy tests to give millions of Americans their fundamental right to vote. We can continue to expand democracy in California by removing another barrier to the voting process if we pass Prop. 52 and implement Election Day voter registration.