The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) requires public assistance agencies, agencies serving people with disabilities, armed forces recruitment offices, and other agencies designated by the state as NVRA Voter Registration Agencies to:
- Distribute a voter registration card to each person who applies for service or assistance with the agency, or who requests recertification, renewal or a change of address with the agency;
- Assist people in completing the voter registration card by giving the same kind of assistance already provided for completing the agency's own forms;
- Accept completed voter registration cards, and send completed voter registration cards to elections officials within 10 days. Cards received within five days of a deadline to register to vote must be forwarded to elections officials within five days.
Under the NVRA, if a voter completes a voter registration card at an NVRA voter registration agency on or just before a voter registration deadline, but elections officials do not receive the form until after the deadline, the voter is deemed to have timely registered and is eligible to vote in the election.
The NVRA places restrictions on how agency staff may interact with applicants when providing the opportunity to register to vote. Voter registration agency staff must not:
- Seek to influence an applicant's political preference or party registration;
- Display any political preference or party allegiance;
- Make any statement to an applicant or take any action the purpose or effect of which is to discourage the applicant from registering to vote; or,
- Make any statement to an applicant or take any action the purpose or effect of which is to lead the applicant to believe that a decision to register or not to register has any bearing on the availability of services or benefits.
Senate Bill (SB) 35 Requirements
SB 35 (Padilla), Chapter 505, Statutes of 2012, effective January 1, 2013, codified portions of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) into state law and places new requirements on county elections officials, NVRA agencies, and the Secretary of State.
SB 35 requires NVRA Voter Registration Agencies to do the following:
- Notify the county elections official of each NVRA office or site within a county;
- Designate an NVRA/SB 35 coordinator;
- SB 35 requires NVRA agencies to train employees annually and requires county elections officials to assist with training, if requested by an NVRA agency. The Secretary of State's NVRA and SB 35 training materials are available on the Training Information and Resources web page;
- Order voter registration cards exclusively from the county elections office;
- Offer minority language forms as required by federal Voting Rights Act; and
- Offer an online voter preference form and link to California Online Voter Registration (http://RegisterToVote.ca.gov/) if the agency offers enrollment, renewal, or change of address transactions online.
Voter Preference Forms
All agencies designated as voter registration agencies under the NVRA must keep records of voter preferences. Under the NVRA, the agency hands out a voter registration card along with an NVRA Voter Preference Form, which asks "Would you like to register to vote today?" and provides checkboxes for the applicant to agree or decline to register to vote. Agencies keep Voter Preference Forms on file for two years.
Under the NVRA, when a person chooses to register or declines to register at one of the voter registration agencies, that information is private and must be kept confidential. Therefore, Voter Preference Forms are not public records, and the identity of the agency where a voter registers is also confidential. However, aggregate numbers of voter registrations and declinations from each voter registration agency are reportable and a matter of public record.
County elections officials track voter registrations at NVRA voter registration agencies by tracking the serial numbers on the voter registration cards supplied to each public assistance agency. As completed voter registration cards come back to the county, elections officials check the serial number to determine whether the card came from an NVRA Voter Registration Agency.