Capitol Alert

New voter database clears path for 16-year-old pre-registration, other laws

“I Voted” stickers sit next to the ballot box at the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters office in spring 2006. Secretary of State Alex Padilla certified VoteCal as the state’s voter registration database on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016.
“I Voted” stickers sit next to the ballot box at the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters office in spring 2006. Secretary of State Alex Padilla certified VoteCal as the state’s voter registration database on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

After years of technology glitches and vendor problems, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla made it official Monday: the state’s new voter registration database is finally complete.

Padilla’s certification of VoteCal as the system of record for voter registration in California clears the way for the state to begin pre-registering 16- and 17-year-olds via paper registration forms. Starting in January, people will be able to register to vote on Election Day.

Also, Monday’s announcement checks off a requirement of 2015 legislation to offer automatic registration of voters at the DMV when they apply for a new license or file a change of address . That system is scheduled to working by July 2017.

And more immediately, VoteCal makes possible a voter registration and polling place lookup tool. People who cast mail or provisional ballots for the Nov. 8 election will be able to verify that their ballots were counted.

“This project is over a decade in the making, but it will pay dividends for California voters for years to come,” Padilla said in a statement Monday. “VoteCal will enable many improvements in future elections, including Election Day voter registration and the New Motor Voter Act.”

The federal government required states to overhaul their voter database systems as part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 following the Florida voting meltdown during the 2000 election. Other states signed contracts for new systems, but California’s attempts to replace its aging and inefficient CalVoter database faced repeated setbacks.

An initial, failed attempt to build VoteCal cost at least $4.6 million, the state auditor reported in 2013, pegging the project’s total cost at $98.2 million through June 2017. VoteCal’s challenges became an issue in the 2014 race between Padilla, a Democrat, and Republican Pete Peterson.

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