Change in law makes same-day voter registration reality in California
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 207 into law this month. The bill allows for same-day voter registration in the state. (AP Photo)

Whether you didn’t think there was time or simply forgot to register for the primary, you’re in luck: Feb. 18 is no longer the definitive end to voter registration in California.

Thanks to a recent change, Californians can now cast primary election ballots until polls close March 3.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 207 into law on Feb. 13, meaning voters can fill out conditional — commonly known as “same-day” — registration forms at vote centers or the Registrar of Voters office.

Sponsored by Central Valley state Sen. Melissa Hurtado, the law allows for these votes to be counted after election officials confirm eligibility. All ballots will be counted in time for certification in early April.

“I thank Gov. Newsom for signing this bipartisan measure to streamline the voting process for all Californians, regardless of their party affiliation,” Hurtado, a Democrat, said in a statement last week.

According to Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office, the change will help voters get easier access to ballots and ease the burden of processing an entire re-registration for small changes.

“2020 marks the first year that voters can complete the ‘Same-Day’ voter registration process and cast their ballot at any polling location or vote center in their county,” Padilla said in a statement Wednesday. “This is yet another step California is taking to lead the nation in expanding voting rights and access to the ballot.”

The change is also important for the state’s more than 5.2 million No Party Preference voters. Nearly 300,000 of those are in Santa Clara County.

Previously, anyone registered NPP who wanted to vote in the presidential primary could request a crossover ballot to vote in the Democrat, American Independent or Libertarian primaries. Those who wanted to vote in the closed primaries of the Republican, Green or Peace & Freedom parties had to change their registration.

Under SB 207, anyone wanting to make that switch can do so within the 14 days before the election.

“We know more Californians are registering as non-partisan, independent voters,” Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, D-Oceanside, who co-authored the bill, said in a statement. “This new law will streamline the process for these voters in the March primary so that there’s less hassle around voting for the candidate they support, especially if it requires them changing their political party to do so.”

NPP voters have increased in recent years and comprise 25.9 percent of the registered electorate — the second-largest bloc in California behind Democrats.

In May 2018, NPP voters overtook Republican voters, who are now at 23.7 percent statewide — down from 25.1 percent in June 2018. While SB 207 passed in the Assembly 60-12 and the Senate 28-9, opponents expressed concern that same-day registration would create greater confusion or distrust in the election.

Eric Kurhi, Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters spokesperson, said it makes voting easier for everyone.

“It’s not enfranchising or disenfranchising anyone,” he said. “The people would have been able to vote, it just would’ve been a little bit of a more complicated process. This simplifies it.”

Contact Katie Lauer at [email protected] or follow @_katielauer on Twitter.

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