In an innovative shift in the election process, California citizens may now register to vote online through a new system launched by the California Secretary of State and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Citizens can register to vote in the Nov. 6 election by visiting RegisterToVote.ca.gov before the Oct. 22 deadline. Historically, UCSB has boasted some of the highest voter registration rates in the state, in part due to the efforts of organizations such as Campus Democrats, College Republicans and UCSB’s CalPIRG chapter.
UCSB CalPIRG campus organizer Kat Lockwood said the organization lobbied heavily to implement the new online system and — in partnership with Rock the Vote and the UC Student Association — has developed a tool to simplify the process for students which can be accessed at CaliforniaStudentVote.org.
According to Lockwood, California is actively moving against the growing trend of states tightening registration restrictions.
“We’re really excited that as other states are passing strict voter ID laws to make it harder for young people to vote, California instead, with online voter registration, is making it easier for young people to vote,” Lockwood said.
Campus Democrats President Erik Anciaux said the group has yet to determine how to most effectively utilize the new tool, but recognizes it nonetheless as a benefit.
“It changes the game — I wouldn’t say it makes it easier or harder,” Anciaux said. “I still have to figure out a way to incorporate online voter registration and on the ground face-to-face contact to be able to both effectively register everyone and know who we have registered and who we haven’t, but overall it’s a good thing.”
Lockwood said CalPIRG is hoping to register about 3,000 voters as part of a voter registration coalition effort to register a total of 10,000 people on campus. The coalition is hoping to match or exceed the number of registered students at UCSB in 2008, which was the highest in the campus’s history.
Despite the obvious benefits of online registration in terms of added accessibility, Lockwood said the new system is not meant to replace the traditional paper application process.
“We have done a lot of research and we know that peer-to-peer registration is the best way, but with online registration, we think that we can get a whole swath of people registered to vote that we wouldn’t normally be able to reach,” Lockwood said.
California’s Chief Election Officer and Secretary of State Debra Bowen said due to the anonymous nature of online applications, checking for voter fraud is one of administration’s chief concerns.
“Security is a critical part of elections, and I want to emphasize this online application is not ‘automatic registration,’” Bowen said in a press release. “The information provided in an online application still must be verified by a county elections official before an applicant can be added to the voter rolls.”
According to Anciaux, the new tool itself is no guarantee of higher registration rates, and the organization will continue to post volunteers around campus to campaign.
“By no means does this mean our job is done,” Anciaux said. “It will still be very important for us to be on the ground having these conversations because it is so much more effective than just sending an email, so we will still be working very hard on the ground and going door-to-door.”