Proponents of automatic voter registration believe it will increase voter turnout. California saw a historically low voter turnout in the November 2014 election with 42 percent of registered voters voting and that number was only 31 percent of eligible voters, according to the state's elections office.
California has nearly 7 million eligible but unregistered voters.
Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, addressed some of the questions and issues about automatic voter registration.
How would automatic voter registration work in California?
"As I understand it is that someone who comes to the DMV to get a driver's license for the first time, they're turning 18. The DMV knows how old they are and they can tell the Secretary of State: Hey, we have this Californian who came into our system. Here's their address. Here's their birthdate. Here's the date that you need to get them on to the voter rolls. Now you also need to know that party's … that person's party preference. We also want to know do you want to vote by mail ballot? We'd like to know if you want to vote in the polls. We want to know if they have a language preference," Alexander explained.
Does automatic voter registration increase voter turnout?
Alexander said computer and political scientists looked at that after the 2012 national election and based on search engines they studied, "they estimated there were anywhere from 3 to 4 million Americans who would have voted in the 2012 presidential election had they had the opportunity to register on Election Day if they hadn't already missed that deadline."
Automatic voter registration "certainly removes one of the barriers, especially for people who are not being contacted by campaigns which is young people who don't vote frequently," Alexander said.
Help America Vote Act federal dollars would fund the "VoteCal" automatic voter registration system while counties would have the responsibility of maintaining it. VoteCal has been in development since 2006 and requires a statewide voter registration database which is scheduled to be completed in mid-2016, according to Alexander.
Alexander admitted there are privacy and costs concerns to be addressed as well as if a registrant wanted to opt out.
Oregon uses vote-by-mail and automatic voter registration.