Law Allows New Citizens To Register To Vote On Election Day

A naturalization ceremony | Photo: Grand Canyon NPS/Flickr/Creative Commons License

It's too late to register to vote and still participate in the June 5 primary for most citizens, but those who have just become naturalized are able to take advantage of a new law and register to vote up until Election Day.

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Previously, new citizens needed to register seven days before an election. Here's how it now works, per the California Secretary of State's website:

If you meet all the other requirements to vote in California but will not become a U.S. citizen until less than 15 days before the next election, you may still have an opportunity to register to vote and cast a ballot. To do this, you will need to visit your county elections office, or another county-designated location, anytime up until the close of the polls on Election Day. You must bring proof that you are a U.S. citizen, and sign an affidavit declaring you are eligible to vote in California.

A list of county elections offices is available here.

So far there have been 12 naturalization ceremonies this year. Last week 12,000 people were sworn in as new citizens in Los Angeles County. Roughly 30 to 40 percent of those at naturalization ceremonies registered to vote on the spot, according to a spokesperson from the Los Angeles County Registrar. The office could not breakdown party affiliation of newly registered voters.

A bill currently in the state legislature aims to allow all citizens to register at the polls on Election Day. Passed by the California Assembly in a 47-26 vote, AB 1436 would change current law, which allows citizens to register up to 15 days before an election. In some circumstances new residents can register to vote seven days before an election.

Reducing the number of days to register before an election increases the chance that citizens vote, according to some studies. One in particular published in the Social Science Quarterly showed that voter turnout increased by seven percent in nine states that permit Election Day registration. However, opponents say that the bill could increase likelihood of error and claim same day registration encourages potential voter fraud.

About the Author

I am a journalist and researcher, and have written numerous research and investigative pieces. My work has been published with several notable organizations, including Annenberg Digital News, CAMERA, KCET, the Middle East Forum, P...
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