California needs automatic voter registration

Voting is the foundation of democracy. One person, one ballot, one vote. Citizens are allowed to choose who they would like to lead them; each candidate gets chosen directly by the people — all the people. Voting is a right given to us as U.S. citizens so that we can pick the people to represent our interests on a national scale — it is a right that many other people in many other countries do not have. We are extremely lucky in this country to have free and fair elections, but many people, especially in California, take this right for granted. They do not vote. California experienced a 42 percent record-low voter turnout in the November midterm elections, and only 10 percent of eligible voters voted in the March Los Angeles County election. So California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, as well as Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego are proposing a “motor voter” law that would automatically register those eligible to vote when they make contact with the Department of Motor Vehicles, which Padilla and Gonzalez hope will increase voter turnout statewide. With the passage of this bill, people who renew their driver licenses will be mailed a ballot so that they do not have to take a trip down to their local polling place. Automatic voter registration is an efficient and convenient way to increase voter turnout and therefore assure the freedom and fairness of democracy.
The U.S. government is, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, “a government of the people, by the people, for the people.” John F. Kennedy wanted the world to know that the United States would “pay the price, bear any burden, meet any hardship … to assure the survival and success of liberty.” Our leaders have campaigned and fought and died for our right to actively participate in a  democracy, one that no longer exists. 
A democracy cannot by definition be a democracy if its citizens refuse to vote in elections. That 10 percent voter turnout in Los Angeles County was not a democratic election — it was an election of that 10 percent, by that 10 percent, for that 10 percent. We complain that the government implements policies that only favor a small minority of people, not the whole population. And while it may be entertaining to criticize politicians, their failure to pass laws that benefit all the people lies solely with us. 
How can a government elected by a minority protect the rights of the majority? That 10 percent of people who voted in Los Angeles will benefit greatly from the newly-elected officials. The other 90 percent? Not so much. The new Los Angeles officials will fight for the 10 percent that voted for them, not for the 90 percent, the majority of the county, who did not. 
These record-low turnouts put democracy in jeopardy. We cannot pride ourselves on our leadership of the free world if our leaders are not elected by the entire population. 
Padilla claims that the voter registration process is a huge barrier to higher voter turnout rates — 26.7 percent of eligible voters in California, 7 million people, are not registered to vote. That is 7 million people who do not fill out a ballot, 7 million people who do not participate in a democracy, 7 million people whose voices are not heard. By automatically registering voters, we can ensure that a major roadblock in the voting process is removed quickly.
Of course, abstaining from voting is a right given to the citizens of the United States, and if people think that there is no worthy candidate — not even one with whom they agree on even a few issues — then those people should be given the choice not to vote. Automatically registering voters does not, contrary to what some may think, force people to vote — it merely records their name under a specific political party so that when the election comes, ballots can be mailed out to every person. This allows people who cannot or do not want to make the voyage to the polling place to vote from the comfort of their homes. It is more difficult to ignore a physical paper ballot than the idea of voting — automatic registration counters the voter apathy of many Americans and instead encourages them to focus on the ideology of candidates and political parties.
The United States has an embarrassingly low voter turnout rate, but with the passage of this bill, in California and in other states, we could turn that around. We are awarded an incredibly unique freedom here in the United States — we can choose our leaders. Our voices matter and our voices are heard, and we should vote in every election. We cannot squander this invaluable opportunity provided to us by the Constitution; we cannot disrespect the memory of the people who have sacrificed so much to give us this right.