Jackson Bill To Encourage Young People to Vote Passes Off Senate Floor

January 28, 2014

SACRAMENTO – A bill by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D - Santa Barbara) that would allow voter pre-registration beginning at age 16 passed off the Senate floor today and is now headed to the State Assembly. The vote was 24-8.

Senate Bill 113 would not change the voting age, which is 18. But it would allow young people to fill out the necessary online or paper application to get ready to vote beginning at age 16. They could pre-register online, by mail or at the DMV when they get their driver’s licenses. Pre-registration could also become a part of high school civics classes, taken during the junior year, when students are 16- and 17-years old. Once they turn 18, their registration would become active.

“It’s clear we must do more to get young people voting, and one way is to do that is to give them sufficient time and ample opportunity to get ready to vote, ” Jackson said. “Studies show that pre-registration is a powerful way to encourage young people to become lifelong, engaged voters – which is what we need for a healthy democracy.”

“This capitalizes on perfect places to engage young people in democracy – while they are emerged in civics and government studies or applying for a driver’s license. Pre-registration could be a critical tool in starting lifelong voting habits,” said Secretary of State Debra Bowen, California’s chief elections official.

Youth aged 18-24 stand out as an age group that is registering at far lower rates than any other age group. Even in the presidential election year of 2012, while nearly 80% of all Californians  registered to vote, only 62% of 18-to-24-year olds were registered.

Thirteen other states allow voter pre-registration before the age of 18, including Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island and Wyoming. A 2009 George Mason University study found that pre-registration programs in Hawaii and Florida encouraged young people to start voting and keep voting.

The bill is sponsored by the Secretary of State’s office, and has the support of a number of groups, including Rock the Vote, the California League of Women Voters, Common Cause and Voto Latino.