AB 145 attacks voter registration

Sept. 4, 2012

By Dave Roberts

Seventy-two percent of Californians who are eligible to vote are registered to vote. That’s up 2 percentage points from four years ago, but down from the three-quarters of eligible Californians who were registered in 1996. That 72 percent might remain a high water mark for decades if an undemocratic Democratic bill that slipped through the Legislature last week is signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

AB 145 by Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, bans the practice of paying people for each voter that they register (or re-register to another party). Pan believes this will reduce the incentive for registration fraud.

“Sacramento County Registrar Jill LaVine stated 25 percent of the 31,000 cards submitted by Momentum Political Services had been rejected for inaccuracies,” said Pan on the Assembly floor on Aug. 30. “Ms. LaVine has also reported that her office has also found numerous examples of voters having their political party affiliations switched against their wishes.”

Reducing voter registration fraud not only restores integrity to the voter registration process, he said, but it also reduces staff time for county registrars in investigating and invalidating fraudulent affidavits. “Decreasing this backlog and strain on county registrars can save significant resources when county governments are struggling in a difficult budget climate,” Pan said.

The switched party affiliations in Sacramento County were “voters having their political party affiliation switched to ‘Republican’ against their wishes,” stated Pan in his written support for the bill.

GOP criticism

But several Assembly Republicans criticized the bill, one of them calling it an attack on Republican registration.

“This is just a bad idea,” said Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks. “This is going to make it harder to register people to vote. Yet I hear on this floor all the time … that we want to expand access to vote, we want to improve voter participation. But when it happens to help the Republican side of the aisle because it’s free market, let’s shut it down. This is a bill in search of a problem.”

Donnelly also criticized the bill for having bypassed the committee review process. AB 145 started out dealing with high-speed rail before being gutted and amended.

“So the very people who claim that they want more participation, [in effect are saying,] ‘We want to hear from the people, we want you to weigh in, we want you to be part of the process — but we’re not going to abide by any of the rules, we’re not going to actually give you three-day notice. We’re just going to cram this through at the last second,’” said Donnelly. “It is just fundamentally wrong. It is a stupid idea. Why are we pushing so many stupid ideas into legislation?”

Brian Jones, R-Santee, pointed out that last year Brown vetoed a similar bill, SB 205, issuing the following veto message: “I understand the author’s desire to stop fraudulent voter registration. But I don’t believe this bill — which makes it a crime to pay people for registering voters based on the number of registrations they secure — will help. Voting is at the heart of our democracy. Efforts to register voters should be encouraged, not criminalized.”

Jones added, “I ask the governor to put the same exact message on the veto message for this bill as well.”

Chris Norby, R-Fullerton, voted against AB 145, but said he is sympathetic to the intent of the bill.

“I think that paying people to re-register people by party is a waste of money for either party,” he said. “If you have somebody who says, ‘Look, I can increase your registration edge for Democrats or Republicans by 2 percent if you give me all this money.’ And a guy goes out and re-registers these people, in some cases fraudulently, some cases he may say, ‘Re-register with me and I’ll make 10 bucks, do it because you’re sympathetic with me, and then you can always re-register back to your original party in another month.’ And that guy can make 10 bucks. It’s a waste of a candidates’ money, and it’s a waste of the party’s money.”

It’s likely that AB 145 also will be a waste of the Assembly’s time when this Son of SB 205 faces a Brown veto.

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