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April 6, 2006 (916) 651-4028/(916) 215-5953
“CALIFORNIA’S CURRENT POLICY WOULD BE AN UNMITIGATED DISASTER THAT WOULD DISENFRANCHISE THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS OF ELIGIBLE VOTERS”
Secretary of State Announces It’s In The “Best Interests of Voters” To Readopt His
Regulations That Have Prevented Tens of Thousands of People From Registering To Vote
SACRAMENTO – That comment was made today by Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice who testified at the Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee’s hearing on the problems with the Secretary of State’s Statewide Voter Registration Database.
Today’s hearing was held one day after the Secretary of State filed to extend the emergency regulations he adopted in December to implement a November 2005 agreement with the Bush Administration’s Justice Department that has prevented tens of thousands of eligible voters from registering to vote.
“Based on the testimony at the hearing, it’s clear the Secretary of State’s system means California is going to lead the nation in the number of disenfranchised voters, yet the Secretary’s response to that problem is to sit on his hands and see how all of this plays out in June. That’s unacceptable,” said Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), the chairwoman of the Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee.
In explaining his request to extend the emergency regulations that are set to expire on April 11, the document submitted to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) on April 5 by the Secretary of State reads:
“Based on communications received from counties and individuals concerning the regulations, the Secretary of State has concluded that the need for changes or additions to the regulations may only become apparent once their functionality has been observed in the course of an actual election. Accordingly, the Secretary of State has determined that it is in the best interests of the voters of this state to readopt the emergency regulations prior to their current expiration deadline, and wait until after the June 6, 2006 election to begin the process of revising the regulations and implementing them on a permanent basis.”
“How the Secretary of State can say it’s in the ‘best interests’ of the voters to continue using the system he designed that’s preventing thousands of eligible voters from registering to vote is stunning,” said Bowen. “For the Secretary to say he’s going to wait and see how many people are prevented from registering and voting in June before deciding whether to change his regulations just doesn’t cut it. Voters aren’t lab rats, they’re not guinea pigs, and the Secretary of State shouldn’t be treating them as if they were.”
The Secretary of State was invited to attend today’s hearing, but he declined to appear. The hearing featured testimony from Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice in New York; Conny McCormack, the L.A. County Registrar of Voters; Rosalind Gold with the National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials Educational Fund; Eugene Lee with the Asian Pacific American Legal Center; and Trudy Schafer, Program Director/Advocate, League of Women Voters of California.
“The deal the Secretary cut with the Bush Administration five months ago has been a disaster for anyone who is trying to register for the first time or re-register because they moved, got married and need to change their name, or because they want to change parties,” said Bowen.
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The Bush-McPherson agreement was announced on November 2, 2005, and emergency regulations were adopted to implement it on December 12. The Help America Vote Act requires states to have a Statewide Voter Registration Database and requires all voter registrations (and re-registrations) to be matched against any prior registration information and information in the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) database and the Social Security Administration (SSA) database. However, states have discretion over how exact the match has to be, as well as what happens to people whose voter registration forms don’t exactly match the DMV or SSA records.
According to a March 24, 2006, report from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law (http://www.brennancenter.org), California is one of nine states to adopt the most restrictive “exact match” standard and no voter can be registered until an “exact match” is made and made in a particular manner. The standards the states choose to adopt and the procedures they use for dealing with errors that crop up in the process of matching voter registration forms against other databases will dictate just how many eligible voters will be denied the ability to register to vote.