Controversy of late is the signing of A.B.1461, a California bill called the California New Motor Voter Program that critics describe as a method for allowing non-citizens to vote, by registering them when they apply or renew a drivers’ license. However, the text of the bill itself does not even say this.
What the bill does say, is that people who apply for or renew their drivers’ license in California will also be enabled to apply for voter registration at the same time, not that the applications will be granted. Just as you can apply for a drivers’ license and be rejected, so too could someone who does not meet the criteria for becoming an eligible voter be likewise rejected.
1. The bill does not say that once your drivers’ license is awarded or successfully renewed that you automatically therefore receive voter registration. The bill states directly that applicants will not be approved if the Secretary of State deems the applicant ineligible to vote.
2. The license registrar (in this case California Department of Motor Vehicles) is not the one determining eligibility. The text of the bill itself directly observes that the Secretary of State will be responsible for the approval, not the DMV.
3. The bill states under no uncertain terms that approval for voter registration will be strictly awarded to citizens, not all residents, not all registrants, not all people who apply. Part of the listed fields of the application include “all voter eligibility requirements, including United States citizenship” in order to be approved.
4. The bill was not signed recently. The signing was in October 2015, not “recently” from whatever article you read from describes it, unless you overlooked the date the article you read it from was published.
5. Perhaps a misunderstanding of the “ineligible vote” clauses further down is why critics are raising such a stink: the clauses merely state that if there ever is someone who is ineligible to vote who is approved by this process, by mistake, then the burden/blame for the ineligible vote (such as a charge of fraud) would fall to the state itself — meaning that the Secretary of State would be to blame. This increases accountability, not decreases it. The ineligible voter (who had been approved, and by his/her awareness was actually approved) would be innocent of fraud charges unless they knew for certain they were ineligible and attempted to vote anyway. This removes the burden from the applicant to endure criminal charges for a crime they were not aware they had committed, since by all appearances the state had mistakenly approved it — whereby the state itself would carry the burden of being charged with fraud. The bill in no way seeks to authorize ineligible voters to vote.