In a chronic phenomenon of under-enfranchisement in the Golden State, there are at least 6.4 million residents who are eligible to vote but were not on the registration rolls as of early April. California’s registration rate is close to last in the United States, and its legions of eligible but unregistered voters make up a disproportionate share of the nationwide total.
Experts say there are multiple reasons for the shortfall, such as residents here moving more often, bureaucratic hurdles and uncompetitive statewide contests that fail to capture the public’s attention. Whatever the causes, the result is the same: an electorate that is whiter, older and wealthier than the state as a whole and a large share of the population disengaged from the laws and representatives chosen in its name.
“It’s a particularly big problem – there’s a big difference between people who vote and the people who don’t vote in California,” said Mark Baldassare, president of the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.