Attention S.F! Voter Registration Extended to Election Day

Will voter turnout be higher this year with extended registration?

(Photo: Kevin Hume)

It’s a momentous election year for a number of reasons, not least of which is that 2018 is the first year in California that people who forgot to register by the official date can still vote.

We get it, Californians. You’re laid-back, you like to take things slow. Deadlines, while important, may slip your mind as you’re basking in the beauties of life. Luckily, the state gets it too, and it passed legislation to cut you some slack.

Conditional Voting Registration, or CVR, was enacted in California in 2012, but didn’t become operative until 2017. Starting this year, every county statewide is required to designate at least one place where people can register and vote — all the way up to Election Day!

The only catch is that CVR must be registered for in-person, so you can’t do it from the comfort of your sofa. People who sign up for CVR in San Francisco must go to Room 48 in the City Hall Voting Center during these dates and times.

It’s only been three days since CVR was enacted on May 22, but already 36 people took advantage of it in S.F.

John Arntz, director of the S.F. Department of Elections, said the total increase of voter turnout for the city and state will be determined later on, but is expected to be higher than previous elections.

Some political science studies show that difficult registration processes contribute to the fact that the United States is a country with one of the lowest voter turnouts in elections. Turnout is even less for local and state elections, though those decisions can affect voters way more.

Votes by CVR will be counted along with mail-in votes. For the S.F. election, all CVR and mail-in ballots are likely to be counted by Election Day said Arntz. For eager citizens, there’s even a feature to track the exactly when their ballots are officially counted.

Artnz said there are multiple reasons people might have trouble registering by the official date, and not all of them are due to forgetfulness. He said when people move into a new county or city, they must re-register. Even a mere change in address can cause voter registration to be invalid, forcing people to start over.

“Every election people think they’re registered, and we don’t have an account in our base,” Arntz said. “This extends the opportunity to vote.”

If you haven’t heard about this news statewide voting law, it’s probably just growing pains. Arntz said that since this is the first year CVR is available, the Department of Elections considered possible confusion about the two separate dates for voting. To clarify: May 21 is when official voter registration ended, and May 22 is when CVR began.

Still, the Department of Elections has cautiously spread the word to the public.

“We’ve done press releases, added information in the voter guide, used social media, but it’s kind of hard because we don’t want to confuse people.” Arntz said.

He added that it is important for people to understand that registering for CVR can only be in person. “There’s a difference between the two: you have to be in City Hall to do it.”

If you’re not in San Francisco County, you can still partake in CVR as long as you live in California. The list of all CVR locations are listed here.

But as liberating as CVR can be for civic procrastinators, some deadlines still actually act like deadlines. Vote by June 5 for the city’s next mayor, or forever hold your peace.

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