Motor Voter Law passed in California; automatic voter registration: Step in right direction but hinderance to those without license

Toni Pennello, Staff Writer

In October, The New Motor Voter Law was passed in California. This new law means that anyone receiving a driver’s license or other identification in the state will be automatically registered to vote.

Democratic group iVote is pushing to pass this law in all 50 states. The purpose is to ensure that all Americans are able to register, and hopefully increase voter turnout. According to, the 2014 congressional election showed the lowest voter turnout since 1978.

Will automatic voter registration increase voter turnout? Dr. Thomas Baldino, professor of political science, doesn’t think it can hurt.

“I want more people to vote, and to be able to vote one must be registered,” Baldino said. “Putting arbitrary or difficult obstacles in the path of people who are wishing to register, that’s a problem.”

Political science Professor Dr. Kyle Kreider agrees that this might be a necessary step in increasing voter turnout.

“I support automatic voter registration because I believe the ‘costs’ associated with voting should be kept as low as possible,” Kreider explained.

Baldino referred to various practices that don’t necessarily hinder people from registering by law, but end up doing so accidentally.  This includes the need to show an ID and birth certificate to register.

“Not everyone drives, and typically people who don’t drive are poor. Poor people are hindered in their ability to register, which means you’re shutting them out of the voting process,” Baldino explained.

If someone who wants to register does not have a required birth certificate, they will need to pay to get a new one, which Baldino referred to as an “artificial cost to vote.”

The New Motor Voter Law is still mostly exclusive to American citizens who drive, however.

“I’m worried about the people who aren’t driving,” Baldino explained. “If you’re going to give those people who do drive an automatic registration, what are you doing for those who don’t drive? Those who aren’t driving are more likely older, or poor.”

Both Baldino and Kreider expressed skepticism for how effective automatic voter registration will be to help voter turnout. Kreider explained that there are two separate problems: voter registration, and voter turnout.

“It’s true that there are some people who’d like to vote on Election Day but can’t because they are not registered to vote.  However, by and large, those who are not registered to vote are ones who would not vote on Election Day anyway, even if they had that opportunity,” Kreider said. “We need to help lower costs but be mindful that voter turnout won’t increase a great deal because of this.”

Although it has its drawbacks, both Baldino and Kreider feel that this is a step in the right direction. To Baldino, the more pressing issue lies in the fact that people are actually against automatic registration.

“There are states like California who are working hard, or at least creating conditions to expand participation,” Baldino said. “But there are other states that are putting up more roadblocks to voting. That is more troubling to me than making it easier.”