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Five recent changes to voting systems and practices are intended to make voting more accessible to more Californians. As we pointed out in our earlier article (New election reforms are an opportunity for nonprofits to engage with voting), these reforms are great news for nonprofits because we can focus more of our efforts on educating voters about the issues and turning them out to vote- and hopefully less time focused on getting people registered. Brief summaries of these changes are included below, please reach out with any questions or feedback!

1) Motor Voter Registration

In the Spring of 2018, the California Motor Voter program went into effect. As a result, when Californians apply for or renew their driver’s license or state ID card, they will be automatically registered to vote unless they opt out. CalNonprofits supported the legislation that created this program because it will lead to more Californians engaging in our democratic process and voting. Under the Motor Voter program, 16 and 17-year-olds will be pre-registered to vote at the DMV when completing eligible transactions. 

2) Pre-Registration for 16 and 17 year-olds

A law passed in 2014 allows 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote. In 2017, Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced the ability for 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register online, and their registration would become active automatically when they turn 18. In April 2018, Secretary Padilla shared that 100,000 California youth had pre-registered to vote.

3) Voter Choice Act Pilots

The Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) was approved by California lawmakers in 2016. In 2018, five California counties (Sacramento, Madera, Napa, Nevada, and San Mateo) are piloting the VCA. The VCA provides voters with three choices on how to vote, including Vote-By-Mail, using a Ballot Dropbox, or voting at a Vote Center. Learn more on the VCA website.

4) Same Day Voter Registration 

Also known as “Conditional Voter Registration.” Starting in January 2017, voters who missed the voter registration deadline are still able to register and vote on the same day- even on Election Day. A voter can register after the deadline either online or by using a paper voter registration card, but they will then need to visit their county elections office or a designated location to vote. For more information, visit the Secretary of State's website.

5) New law: Prepaid postage for mail ballots 

In the November 2016 general election, 57% of voters submitted ballots by mail. However, one or more postage stamps are required to mail these ballots- an obstacle to voting since many Californians rely on technology like email and online bill pay and therefore may not have stamps. A new law, signed by Governor Brown in July 2018, will require that the envelopes for mail-in ballots include pre-paid postage, eliminating one more obstacle to voting. The law goes into effect at the beginning of 2019, though according to the Los Angeles Times, 10 of California’s 58 counties had already planned to provide postage with their mail-in ballots in the November 2018 midterm election.

Want more in-depth information on these and other changes? We recommend reading the Future of California Elections 2018 Election Reform Primer.

Pictures are of attendees at CalNonprofits’ 2018 Policy Convention:
“Nonprofits Standing up for California"

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