Tuesday, June 24, 2008

SB 381 sails out of Assembly Elections committee

Senator Ron Calderon's bill to allow the Secretary of State to implement online voter registration, SB 381, sailed out of the Assembly elections committee today. The one lone Republican lawmaker present at the time the bill was taken up, Sen. Roger Niello, surprised the room when he said he would be voting yes for the bill.

Sen. Niello asked the author and his staff a good question during the hearing: how do you know when someone registers online that they're registering for themselves and not for someone else? Calderon staffer Darren Chesin pointed out the safeguards in the bill, that it requires a voter to provide their date of birth, California drivers license number, and last four digits of your social security number in order to process the request. He noted that Arizona's system, which has been running since 2002, is fraud-free.

Barry Brokaw spoke for the local election officials and said while the group has no official position yet, they like the bill, especially because it will reduce data entry for their staff. The bill is being amended at the request of the Secretary of State, who also supports it, to change the implementation date from 2010 to after the new VoteCal statewide voter registration database is operating.

Senator Niello said he decided to vote for the bill because he thinks it's important to make it easy for people to register to vote, but stop short of doing it for them, and online registration would still require a person to be proactive and take action in order to get registered. Other lawmakers on the committee -- Assemblymember Tony Mendoza and chair Curren Price -- asked to be added as co-authors.

Regarding this bill....a reader asked me why it had been enrolled? The legislative history on SB 381 is somewhat confusing. The bill was enrolled, all the way to the governor's desk, doing something else, then Sen. Calderon "retrieved" it, which required a procedural vote. The bill was amended to enable online voter registration after it was pulled back and now it is moving again in the legislative process. The next likely stop would be the Assembly fiscal committee.

It was noted at the hearing today that this was Chairman Price's last committee hearing, and I believe he will be missed. I have sat through a number of his hearings and admire and appreciate the way he treats everyone with respect.

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