National Voter Registration Day: Engage in Democracy

Karen Ocamb News

Sept. 22 is National Voter Registration Day and the push is on across the country from Google Doodle to an e-blast from young activists at March For Our Lives, to encourage all Americans to register to vote and engage in the democratic process. It is a right for which lives have been given and blood has been shed as powerful men historically denied women, people of color and non-property owners access to the ballot and representation. Attempts at voter suppression continue today – but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, California has made it easier to register to vote by mail and on critical issues such as keeping families in their homes through Proposition 21.

Proposition 21 is the November ballot measure that puts limits on unfair, sky-high rent increases. It protects people against corporate landlord greed and keeps them in their homes. It’s supported by trusted civil leaders and organizations, such as U.S. Bernie Sanders, labor and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, Congress members Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee and Karen Bass, the California Democratic Party, and the Los Angeles Times, among numerous others.

The California Secretary of State’s (SoS) website is full of information to help people register to vote in this critical election, including information in nine languages other than English (Spanish, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese), checking your registration status, and finding local county election offices. Additionally, if sharing your address might put you in life-threatening danger, you could be eligible to register to vote confidentially through California’s Safe at Home program. (Contact the Safe at Home program at (877) 322-5227 or visit www.sos.ca.gov/registries/safe-home/.)

To be eligible to register to vote, you must be:

The steps to register online are fairly easy.

First, check to see if you are already registered to vote and if so, in what county.

If you want to register online, you will need three points of identification:

  1. Your California driver license or California identification card number
  2. The last four digits of your social security number
  3. Your date of birth

The secretary of state will then retrieve your signature through the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).  If you don’t have a California driver license or official California identification card, you can still apply to register to vote through the SoS website. To have an application mailed to you, call your county elections office or the Secretary of State’s toll-free Voter Hotline at (800) 345-VOTE (8683).

In addition to registering online at RegisterToVote.ca.gov, you can also pick up a paper application at your county elections office, any Department of Motor Vehicles field office, and many post offices, public libraries, and government offices. However, it may be wise to call ahead first to make sure the site is open and see if there are any specific COVID-19 requirements other than wearing a mask and being six feet socially/physically distanced from others.

Once you fill out the voter registration application, your information will be verified by your county elections official to provide safeguards against voter fraud or error. Your local county elections official will then contact you when your application is approved or if they need more information.

Oct. 19 is the deadline to register to vote, 15 days prior to Election Day. Voter registration applications MUST be received by midnight on the registration deadline day.

The California Secretary of State website says: “A timestamp will be attached to your online voter registration application. If you register to vote using a paper application, it must be postmarked or hand-delivered to your county elections office by E-15. After the registration deadline, in most elections any individual may conditionally register to vote and cast a provisional ballot by visiting their county elections official. For more information, please refer to Same Day Voter Registration.”

If you are having problems registering to vote, call the secretary of state’s toll-free Voter Hotline at (800) 345-VOTE (8683) or get in touch with your local county elections office, which keeps your  records.  

Remember: this critical election on Nov. 3 is not only to pick a president and federal, state and local officials — you will also be able to vote down ballot on issues that matter greatly to you and others.

One of those incredibly important issues is preventing even more homelessness in California by helping renters and their families stay in their homes by capping unfair rent increases through Proposition 21.

Remember: the history of voting rights includes citizens who did not own property facing economic and social discrimination and having to fight for their right to vote and participate in America’s democratic experience. People who do not own property are fighting again for their human right to have shelter and a home.

Here’s a quick overview on the history of voting rights: