May 25, 2017 01:03 PM PST
SINCE 2007

Increasing voter access to elections

The Capitol Perspective

In 2012, California launched its online voter registration system. This system was a result of legislation I authored and passed in 2011 and saw immediate success. Within weeks, California set a record high, 18,245, 970 registered voters right before the November general election.

According to county data tallied by Political Data Inc. (PDI), the state’s largest bipartisan election data firm, 61.5 percent of those who used the online registration system were under the age of 35 (30.8% age 18-24, 30.7% age 25-34) and 79 percent registered to vote for the first time.

As the state’s voter rolls increase, many voters are also taking advantage of the vote by mail (VBM) system, where a ballot is mailed to a voter. In the 2012 statewide general election, over 51% of voters took advantage of the vote by mail system and either mailed or dropped off their completed ballots.

Through research and inquiries with various county election officials, it was discovered that California Code does not expressly allow for ballot returns in ballot drop boxes other than what is made available in the offices of election officials or at polling places on Election Day, despite the wide use of ballot drop boxes around California.

This is why I have introduced Senate Bill 240, which would set security standards for Vote By Mail (VBM) Ballot Drop Boxes that are used by counties. SB 240 would set uniform standards, ensuring tight security control over these boxes to ensure the election integrity.

VBM Ballot Drop Boxes are an affordable way to increase access in our political process. However, if Californians are going to use them, there need to be standards regarding ballot security. All Californians have the right to cast a ballot easily and securely, and as the use of absentee ballots becomes more popular, we should work to make the process of casting one more secure. This is an affordable, common-sense proposal to assure that the vote is protected

The 2012 statewide primary election saw 65% of voters cast their ballot by mail and the numbers from previous elections also show an increasing trend. Another significant outcome from that election is the election of the state’s first Filipino-American member of the Legislature.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta was elected by the Assembly 18th district, which includes the cities of Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro. While his election brings great pride to Filipino and Asian Americans alike, it is also a testament to the growing population in California. As more is being done to increase voter participation and access to elections, I hope that it will lead to more people in our community participating in future elections and electing more Filipinos to the state legislature and other bodies in government.