State Assembly passes bill to allow citizens to register to vote via Internet

A bill that would allow citizens to register to vote via the Internet passed the state Assembly on Friday, moving it a step closer to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk and possible signature.

The bill will allow more people to “participate in our democracy,” said its author, Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, in a news release.

The measure, SB 397, has the support of those who conduct elections in the state: the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials. San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald has backed it.

County elections officers say the legislation will save time and money on data entry by election clerks.

Nonetheless, both Central Coast legislators opposed SB 397. Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian and Sen. Sam Blakeslee, both Republicans from San Luis Obispo County, have said they are concerned about possible voter fraud.

Yee said he included safeguards against such abuse.

Under SB 397, Yee wrote, citizens would input their voter information online, and the county elections office would use the voter’s signature from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to verify authenticity.

That signature could be matched against the voter’s signature at the polling place, Yee wrote. Currently, signatures at the polling place are compared only with the paper registration signature, which allows for greater potential fraud, he wrote.

Yee also said his bill would minimize the practice of individuals being paid to collect voter registration cards “and instead sending in fake names in order to fulfill a quota or to make more money.”

Several other states already offer online registration.

After Arizona implemented online voter registration, some counties saw their costs decrease from 83 cents per registration to 3 cents per registration, according to Yee. Maricopa County — the largest election jurisdiction in Arizona — has saved more than $1 million since implementing online registration five years ago.

California Common Cause also supported the bill, as did many other organizations.