Voting Rights Groups Secure Agreement for Easy DMV Registration

Release Date: 
January 17, 2018

Settlement in “Motor Voter” Case in Time for 2018 Elections

SACRAMENTO - Millions of Californians who renew their driver’s license or state identification by mail will be able to use the renewal form to register to vote or update their voter registration, starting in April of 2018.

The changes to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) registration process are the result of a negotiated settlement in a federal lawsuit brought by Demos, the ACLU Voting Rights Project, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, and the law firm of Morrison & Foerster.

“The freedom to vote is fundamental in our democracy, but difficulty registering to vote keeps people from exercising that freedom. This is true in California, where approximately 1 out of every 5 eligible individuals is not registered to vote. We’re pleased to reach a settlement that makes it easier for Californians to register to vote through the DMV,” said Allie Bolt, counsel at Demos.

The case began in 2015, when the plaintiffs notified state officials of widespread violations of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), a law requiring DMVs to incorporate voter registration into applications, renewals, and changes of address. California’s DMV subsequently incorporated voter registration into its applications and online renewals pursuant to a 2016 Memorandum of Understanding with plaintiffs, but refused to incorporate voter registration into its mail renewal process. 

The lawsuit was filed against the California DMV in May of 2017 on behalf of the League of Women Voters of California, California Common Cause, ACCE Institute, and UnidosUS. It charged the state was failing to offer federally mandated voter registration opportunities to millions of Californians.

The new procedures will be implemented as part of the New Motor Voter Act, also known as AB 1461, which requires that eligible citizens get registered to vote during their DMV transactions unless they opt out of voter registration.