Home California Sen. Alex Padilla Proposes Voter Registration to be Done With Tax Prep

Sen. Alex Padilla Proposes Voter Registration to be Done With Tax Prep

by ECT
Senator Alex Padilla

Rules Committee Chair Klobuchar and Finance Committee Chair Wyden join Padilla and 15 Senators in a letter to Treasury Department calling to include nonpartisan voter registration opportunities at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) centers across the country

Effort could help over 100,000 eligible citizens register to vote

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.)—joined by Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar (D-Min.) and Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)—led 15 Senators in urging the U.S. Department of the Treasury to provide nonpartisan voter registration services at all Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) centers across the country. Offering voter registration at all VITA centers could help over 100,000 eligible, but currently unregistered, citizens register to vote.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the Senators write, “…the VITA program helps partner organizations deliver free tax preparation services to millions of taxpayers across our nation each year. This critical program provides assistance to underserved communities, including low- to moderate-income individuals, people with disabilities, seniors, and non-English speakers. Such individuals are often also the least likely to be touched by typical voter registration efforts, even in states that maintain robust voter registration programs.”

“A 2019 Brookings Institution trial study found that offering voter registration services at a subset of VITA sites more than doubled the likelihood of an unregistered person registering to vote without slowing the tax preparation process,” the Senators continued. “The study also found that replicating these voter registration drives at all VITA sites could result in approximately 115,000 unregistered eligible voters registering to vote, including 63,000 individuals who would not otherwise register.”

The letter was also cosigned by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Prior to his appointment to the U.S. Senate, Padilla served as California’s Secretary of State where he helped California set voter registration records, with over 22 million registered voters representing 88 percent of the eligible voting age population. Padilla oversaw implementation of the New Motor Voter program to modernize voter registration opportunities offered by the Department of Motor Vehicles. During his tenure, the Secretary of State’s office also helped expand the number of state offices providing voter registration opportunities to Californians.

Full text of the letter here and below.

The Honorable Janet Yellen

Secretary

U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20220

 

Dear Secretary Yellen:

We write to urge you to consider whether the Treasury Department can help increase access to voting by directing that nonpartisan voter registration services be made available at all Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) centers across the country.

As you know, the VITA program helps partner organizations deliver free tax preparation services to millions of taxpayers across our nation each year. This critical program provides assistance to underserved communities, including low- to moderate-income individuals, people with disabilities, seniors, and non-English speakers. Such individuals are often also the least likely to be touched by typical voter registration efforts, even in states that maintain robust voter registration programs.

We appreciate that the Biden Administration has made a strong commitment to promoting access to voting, including through the President’s Executive Order 14019, which directs federal agencies to submit a strategic plan outlining the ways that the agency can promote nonpartisan voter registration and voter participation. While we understand that in August of this year, the Treasury Department submitted such a plan to the White House, that plan does not appear to consider leveraging the VITA program to promote nonpartisan voter outreach. We believe this is a missed opportunity.

A 2019 Brookings Institution trial study found that offering voter registration services at a subset of VITA sites more than doubled the likelihood of an unregistered person registering to vote without slowing the tax preparation process. The study also found that replicating these voter registration drives at all VITA sites could result in approximately 115,000 unregistered eligible voters registering to vote, including 63,000 individuals who would not otherwise register. Furthermore, since the VITA program serves underserved populations, the studies suggest that incorporating voter registration at VITA sites could help reduce disparities in participation between low- and high-income households.

We ask that you study whether and how the Treasury Department, consistent with state and local laws, could direct the incorporation of nonpartisan voter registration services into the VITA program. Such an effort would be consistent with the Treasury Department’s obligations under the President’s Executive Order, and more broadly, could constitute a meaningful step to promoting access to voting to otherwise underserved populations.

Considering that the new tax-filing season, and the federal midterm election, are just around the corner, we look forward to your promptly considering this matter, and providing us a fulsome response explaining your findings. We look forward to working with you to enhance civic participation.

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2 comments

N. Hardy Nov 11, 2021 - 8:40 am

How you going to sign up the people on welfare who down have to file taxes?

Reply
Robert C. Nov 11, 2021 - 8:49 am

I’m a born cynic when it comes to politicians of all stripes and all parties. Clearly, the real motivation here is that Democrats figure (probably accurately) that most voters thus registered will tend to vote Democratic. The truth is that voter registration is easily done if one is even minimally motivated to do so.

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