Proposed California Bill Would Penalize Registered Voters Who Fail To Vote

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A lawmaker in northern California is concerned with low voter turnout and has a new proposal that would punish registered voters who don't cast a ballot in every election. Under AB2070, which was proposed by North Bay State Assemblyman Marc Levine, all registered voters would be required to cast a ballot in every election being held where they live.

The bill does not specify a specific punishment for failing to vote, instead, leaving that up to the California Secretary of State. Voters would be able to submit partial or blank ballots if they do not wish to vote for any of the candidates running for office.

"We need to change the culture of voting," said Levine. "We need to make it something that people expect to do, that they know it's a civic obligation. And with greater turnout, we can have far more positive results."

Not everybody is on board with the idea of punishing people who don't vote.

"Freedom is a two-sided coin. You're free to vote or not to vote," Jack Wilkinson, the Chairman of the Marin County Republican Central Committee, told KPIX. "You can't force people to do something unless you're controlling the outcome of what they do, which is what this bill will lead to."

The news station also spoke with Yolanda Bellisimo, a political science professor at the College of Marin, who cautioned that the bill could result in fewer people registering to vote.

"You're forcing people to do something, which isn't really democratic," she said. "Then what you might find is that you'll have less people registered to vote. That defeats the purpose."

The proposed bill would take effect in 2022 and will be considered by the California State Assembly this spring. The bill is not expected to gain any traction and is unlikely to become law.

Photo: Getty Images

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