Jackson Bill to Encourage Young People to Vote Heads to the Governor

August 26, 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 Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. The vote was 21-12. 

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 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.” 

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.

The bill is contingent upon the enactment of VoteCal, California’s new voter registration database, which is expected to be launched in 2016.

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 Governor has until September 30 to take action on the bill.