Critics of the “New Motor Voter Act” argue that automatically registering people to vote when they obtain or renew their driver’s license will increase potential voter fraud by enabling illegal immigrants to vote.
Should this be a legitimate concern, or are we experiencing another case of paranoia against undocumented immigrants?
Valerie Richardson from The Washington Times reported that Linda Paine, president of the Election Integrity Project of California, said in a statement that Assembly Bill 1461 “will effectively change the form of governance in California from a Republic whose elected officials are determined by United States citizens and will guarantee that noncitizens will participate in all California elections going forward.”
“AB 1461 assures corruption of our elections, our elections will look like those of Mexico and other corrupt nations and honest people will stop voting since illegal aliens will out vote them,” said Stephen Frank of the conservative California Political Review.
Fox News could of course not refrain from expressing its disapproval of the new bill signed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. During an interview with Steve Doocy from Fox and Friends, Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said he also believes the new bill will allow noncitizens to vote.
According to Napolitano, because California already grants undocumented immigrants a driver’s license, the new bill will make voter registration and obtaining a driver’s license one process.
“You may not even know that when you get your driver’s license you’re also being registered to vote. And there’s no requirement of proof of citizenship,” Napolitano told Fox News.
But let’s look at how California’s new voter registration law will actually work.
Melanie Mason, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, wrote an article explaining the facts we know so far about how the bill will be implemented.
When people go to the DMV to apply for a driver’s license or a state identification card, they will be asked to provide the usual information: name, address and date of birth. They will also be asked to affirm their eligibility to vote and will be given the choice of whether they wish to register or opt out.
Sounds like registration is not exactly automatic if you are given a choice.
In addition, the information of those who choose to be registered will be sent from the DMV to the Secretary of State’s office, where citizenship will be verified and names will then be added to the voter rolls.
Now let us assume that undocumented immigrants decide to lie about their legal status and ask to be registered to vote. The possibility of them actually ending up on the voter rolls is simply not likely.
Not only will citizenship be verified by the state, but according to DriveCA.org, in California noncitizen licenses carry the words “Federal Limits Apply” and “not valid for official federal purposes.”
While the new bill is not an actual “automatic registration,” like its critics make it out to be, it will ease and accelerate the process of voter registration.
“Proponents of the New Motor Voter Act have emphasized how the electronic transmittal of information will simplify the process,” Mason wrote.
Lori Shellenberger, voting rights director for the ACLU of California, called the law “a gold standard for what is an automated voter registration, but not automatic.”
The New Motor Voter Act is expected to increase the rolls of registered voters. Despite its critics, I don’t believe it will increase the likelihood of voter fraud or “provide shelter for illegals to vote.” However, I am not too convinced it will significantly increase voter turnout either.
People who do not vote and do not have a political interest will not automatically become voters just by being registered.
What the bill will do is facilitate the registration process as well as help civic engagement organizations like Alliance San Diego reach out to more people and provide information.
“We find that people want to engage, but they don’t know how,” Chris Wilson, director of civic engagement for Alliance San Diego, told KPBS. “Having more people in the voter database allows us to contact more people and give them the information.”