Some Hope ‘Motor Voter’ Act Will Increase Voter Turnout

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With another election cycle fast approaching, lawmakers are turning their attention to voters, but not quite how you'd expect. They're working, not on campaigning for votes but trying to get people to the polls at all.

"There are two things with voting. One is registering to vote and two is turning out, so this will eliminate the registration piece because everyone will be registered to vote automatically,” said State Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, a Democrat from Sacramento.

The "Motor Voter" bill is making its way through the legislature. Under the law, anyone who visits the DMV to renew their license would automatically be registered to vote.

It comes in response to the 2014 election cycle -- which had the lowest voter turnout California has ever seen.

"Right now, it costs millions of dollars annually and tons of people power to register people to vote. All that money, all that effort can now be spent on engagement,” said McCarty.

There are 6 million unregistered people in California. McCarty admits, there's no guarantee the law gets any of them to actually vote.

"I don't want the state or the county to make that decision for me, when to become a registered voter,” said Mariola Lichacz, an unregistered voter who visited the DMV Thursday evening.

Lichacz says she’s uncomfortable with the idea of the state automatically registering her.

"There are so many ways that we can go about creating enthusiasm about voter turnout, there are so many ways that we can do that without turning into a mandatory statute,” Lichacz said.

As it stands now, workers at the DMV are only required to show people the application to register to vote.

DMV Spokesman Jaime Garza says that mechanism is intended to make it easier for residents to register.

There is an option, if the bill passes, for citizens to opt out of voter registration if they wish.

Voters would be registered independent of any party affiliation. If a voter who is automatically registered wishes to be recognized as a Republican or a Democrat, he or she would also be able to opt for that.

The Motor Voter Act has a catchy name. If it passes the state legislature, lawmakers are hoping it catches on with potential voters this time around.

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