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California launches online voter registration system

September 19, 2012 | 12:33 pm

GetprevCalifornians can register to vote with the click of a mouse under a new online system launched Wednesday.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen said she hopes making it easier to register to vote will mean more participation in the Nov. 6 presidential election by many of the the 6.5 million Californians who are eligible to vote but who have not yet registered.

"I think it’s going to be huge," Bowen said of the new system, noting that 3,000 people had used it to register in the first 12 hours.

Until now, Californians had to fill out an application, sign it in paper form and mail or deliver it to an official elections office before they could be put on the voter rolls, a process that could take weeks. The online system will search the Department of Motor Vehicles database for the applicant’s driver's license or identification card number, date of birth and last four digits of her Social Security number. 

If the information matches what the voter provided on the registration form, the voter can authorize elections officials to use an electronic image of their DMV signature to complete the application. After that, the voter only needs to click a "submit’’ button. County elections officials would still need to verify the information. 

"Today, the Internet replaces the mailbox for thousands of Californians wishing to register to vote,'' Bowen said. "Today we are taking the next step in the never-ending evolution of democracy and reaching every Californian.''

More than a quarter of the 23.7 million Californians who are eligible to vote are not registered, said Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation.

"We have one of the lowest rates of registration in the country,’’ Alexander said. "We’re hoping that this new system will encourage more young people to get registered. This is going to make the process more accessible to more people.’’

Californians can register to vote up to 15 days before the election. For the Nov. 6 presidential election, the deadline for registering to vote is Oct. 22. The online voter registration system is reachable on the secretary of state's website here.

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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Secretary of State Debra Bowen. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

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