What can we do to increase voter participation in California? The secretary of state, Alex Padilla, says Oregon’s automatic voter registration—an opt-out, rather than opt-in, registration system—could add 6 million people to the voter rolls if adopted in California. In a conversation with Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO, he talked about other changes that would make voting simpler and more convenient. His goal as secretary of state? A million new regular voters by the time his term ends.
Following the conversation, a panel of experts and elected leaders offered wide-ranging views of the problem: insufficient media coverage of local elections, professional campaign organizations that speak only to frequent voters, and increased poverty that is correlated with lower rates of voting.
Panelists also offered potential solutions, from “crazy” ideas (declare election results valid only if a mandatory minimum number of votes are cast) to smaller fixes (sending pre-postmarked ballots to all registered voters). The participants were Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause; Mike Madrid, principal of GrassrootsLab; Bruce McPherson, Santa Cruz County supervisor; and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, an assemblymember who represents parts of Los Angeles County. John Myers, KQED’s senior editor for California politics and government, moderated the discussion.