While dozens of states, mostly those dominated by Republican legislatures and governors, have spent the past few years devising ways to suppress votes in the guise of cracking down on voter fraud, California has embarked on the opposite course -- making voting in California easier and more consequential.
That trend will continue in the coming months as a result of innovation and smart use of technology, and it will receive yet another boost should the governor sign a bill thatwould allow voters to register up to and on election day.
California historically has been a state that has placed unusual confidence in voters. And that tradition, launched by the Progressives early in the 20th century, has led to reforms intended to make races more competitive and districts less politicized.
First there were the Schwarzenegger-era reforms. In a series of elections, California voters eliminated party primaries and moved to a system in which the top two finishers of the first round of elections face off in a second round, no matter what their party affiliations.
Voters also moved the job of drawing district lines for state Assembly and Senate seats away from the Legislature and to a nonpartisan commission. Finally, they extended that commission's authority and the top-two primary rule to include Congressional races as well.
Now comes online voter registration. For decades, the process of registering to vote in California has been done manually. A prospective voter picks up a registration form at a local library or other distribution point, fills out the information and mails it in. A government worker checks the information and registers the voter. That can take weeks.
The Internet, however, has compressed that process into minutes. A would-be California voter today can fill out the form online, enter verifying information (the last four digits of his Social Security number or his California driver's license) and be registered a few seconds later.