Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Am I registered to vote?" Find out from your county. Oct. 18 is the voter registration deadline!

California is home to more than 23 million potential voters, but 6.5 million of them are not registered to vote.  Some might think this is a sign of apathy, but the truth is that many of those millions of people have been registered to vote before.  A 2004 survey conducted by the California Voter Foundation of eligible, nonregistered Californians found that nearly half - 44 percent - had been registered to vote before but were not registered at their current address.

Californians move around a lot, and that mobility presents a significant barrier to voter registration and participation.  You have to reregister every time you move.   In a few years, California, like a growing number of other states, will offer voters the ability to register and re-register online which will be an enormous convenience to California's mobile citizens.  States are also increasingly offering voters convenient, online lookup tools to verify their registration status; a 2008 study by the Pew Center on the States found that more than half the states are currently offering voters this service.  

Sadly, California is not among them.  However, though we lack a statewide online registration status lookup tool, a number of counties do provide this public service.  The California Voter Foundation's County Election Office roster identifies the 22 counties offering this tool, including many of the most populous counties in the state such as Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego.  Typically all that is required to check your status is to simply enter your street number, birthdate and zip code in an online web form.  The return screen indicates whether the county's registration database includes a voter registered at that address or not.

Unfortunately, it seems many voters don't realize that counties administer elections in the first place.  The most frequent question voters ask CVF is "Am I registered to vote?"  We inform them they need to check with their county election office and direct them to our online roster.  But I wonder what percentage of Californians even know the name of the county in which they live?  

If all California voters had access to a statewide voter registration status lookup tool, the task of determining your status would be much simpler and more straightforward.  In the meantime, Californians living in those 22 counties offering a lookup tool can go online to verify their registration status; the 5.5 million voting-eligible Californians living in the counties that do not offer this tool must call during business hours to check their registration status.  Don't wait - the deadline is October 18.  Voter registration forms are available at most post offices.

California counties offering an online voter registration status lookup tool:  Alameda, Butte, Colusa, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Marin, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Shasta, Solano, Sonoma, Ventura and Yolo.

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