Senator Patricia Bates Authors Measure to Clarify DMV Voter Registration Process

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

While Senate Democrats suppressed Senator Patricia Bates’ (R-Laguna Niguel) bill that would have restored “opt-in” voter registration at the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) last January, she has introduced a new bill that she hopes they will support: clarifying the existing DMV voter registration process to reduce confusion.

“DMV customers deserve clear information about voter registration,” said Senator Bates. “My bill would simply eliminate any confusion regarding whether or not someone wants to update their existing information. It would be a small but vital step towards improving the integrity of California’s elections process.”

Senate Bill 1295 would require the DMV to include on the prompt screen on a freestanding kiosk that provides voter registration options, an option that reads, “I’m already registered. Please do not edit or change my current registration.” If a person chooses that option, SB 1295 would prohibit the DMV from providing any personal information of that person to the California Secretary of State for voting purposes.

The idea for SB 1295 came after Senator Bates presented her Senate Bill 57 on January 7th to the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee to restore “opt-in” voter registration at the DMV. While the Democratic members of the committee rejected SB 57, they signaled a willingness to work with Senator Bates to help clarify the existing process. Many Californians have encountered confusing DMV computer prompts when visiting to renew driver’s licenses and identification cards.

The current DMV screen options allow individuals to register to vote or update their registration. There is also an option that states, “I do not want to register to vote or update my voter registration information.” This option is unclear to some Californians. As a result of choosing this last option, some voters were removed from the voter roll even when that was not their intention. A screenshot of the existing voter registration choices in question on the DMV computer kiosk can be found below:

SB 1295 is currently awaiting a hearing date from the Senate Transportation Committee. Should the Legislature and Governor approve the bill this year, it would take effect on January 1, 2021.