Thursday, October 22, 2009
California Governor Signs Law to Boost Young Voter Participation
Photo: HeadCount voter registration volunteers posing for a photos with Jack Johnson - Jack Johnson 2008 Tour - Mansfield MA show, August 2008.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill into law that permits 17 year old California residents to register to vote before their 18th birthday. The 17 year old will then be able to vote in an election beginning on the day that they turn 18 years old.
This process is called "pre-registration." California is the 8th state, now, that permits its residents to register to vote at either 16 or 17 years old. For example, over the summer North Carolina passed a law permitting its residents to register to vote when the residents turn 16 years old.
According to this report, this will facilitate youth registration at two highly convenient locations – in school and at the motor vehicles department when applying for a driver's license. Currently, the majority of voters register when conducting business at motor vehicle departments, and this change will extend that option to younger people as well. And in doing so it will link in young people's minds the rite of passage of getting a driver's license with that of registering to vote.
When signed by the governor, the state will join Hawaii and Florida in allowing for pre-registration. But in true North Carolina, pro-voter style they are coupling this reform with other important provisions – requiring schools to include voter registration information in the 10th grade civics curriculum, encouraging school boards to “adopt policies to promote voter registration,” and including schools in the yearly voter registration drives conducted by local boards of election.
California students were the most persuasive advocates for pre-registration. The students were joined by organizations including the New America Foundation, AARP, The League of Women Voters and FairVote.
MA may be the next state to pass such a law. Representative Ellen Story, a member of the MA House leadership, has put this as her top agenda item. She bluntly stated at a press conference that "[w]e are looking for good bills to pass that don’t cost anything because we don’t have any money.”
Works for me!