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California Voter Registration Website Now Available In 10 Languages

Evening Edition

Aired 4/23/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUESTS:

Lori Shellenberger, Director, American Civil Liberties Union of California's Voting Rights Project.

Chris Wilson, Civic Engagement Director, Alliance San Diego.

Transcript

It might not be on the top of everyone's calendar, but there's another election coming up.

The state primary election is June 3 and the last day to register for that election in May 19.

In an effort to raise voter participation in the state, California's Secretary of State has just added eight more languages to its online voting site. Now eligible voters in California can register to vote in English, Spanish, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese.

It's also made the site more accessible to people with disabilities.

The question is, will those improvements to the website actually increase voter turnout in our increasingly multi-cultural state?

California ranks near the bottom in voter registration and voter participation. According to a recent study by Pew Charitable Trust, just more than 80 percent of eligible voters were registered in 2012 and only 56 percent actually voted.

In San Diego, turnout for the 2012 presidential election was higher, nearly 77 percent of registered voters participated, but fewer have participated in more recent elections. According to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters only 36 percent of voters participated in the November 2013 special mayoral election, and only 44 percent voted to elect San Diego's new mayor in February of this year.

Lori Shellenberger, with the American Civil Liberties Union of California's Voting Rights Project, said 8.5 million eligible voters are not registered in California. She said making registering to vote accessible is part of the process to improving voter participation.

Chris Wilson of Alliance San Diego said translated voter registration forms will be a useful tool for improving the voice of the community, but it's not enough.

"It will allow more people to register but that's not the end all to solving the problem to low voter turnout." Wilson said. "We need to be out in these communities."

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