New legislation seeks to increase voter registration among youth – Orange County Register

Could mobilizing adolescents before they are even eligible to vote help alleviate low youth voter turnout?

A bill introduced this year by Rep. Eloise Gómez Reyes, D-San Bernardino, aims to do just that. Dubbed the High School Voter Registration Act, the legislation would ensure that all California high school students, beginning in the 2026-2027 school year, receive the opportunity and resources to pre-register to vote at least once before the end of their 11th grade. year.

“Unfortunately, millions of Californians are missing out on the opportunity to exercise their democratic right to vote in every election,” Reyes said. “Currently, only 11% of California youth aged 16 and 17 are pre-registered to vote. By focusing on our youth and bringing them the resources in their high schools, we can ensure that more Californians, especially younger Californians, vote and make it a habit to do so from a young age.

According to the Tufts University Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, California youth turnout in the 2022 midterm elections was 22.1%, a drop of 8.2% compared to 2018 and lower than the national average of 23%. In California, according to the Public Policy Institute, young adults make up the smallest percentage of likely voters.

The goal of the legislation is to put various resources in the hands of students, including information about whether and when they can vote, the type of services they might receive from the county election office, and about the voter system online from the Secretary of State. registration tool at

Students would also be introduced to the Student Poll Worker program, which allows high school students ages 16 and older who are U.S. citizens and maintain a 2.5 grade point average to earn a stipend to work at the polls on Election Day.

And if a student or their parent or guardian requests a paper copy of a voter registration card, schools would be required to provide it.

The legislation would largely leave it up to schools and school boards to decide how to provide these resources to students, but suggests engagement could happen in the classroom or through family information sessions and school counselors.

The state has already implemented several measures allowing young Californians to register to vote. High school voter education weeks, for example, take place during the last two full weeks of April and September and allow county elections officials to register students and school staff on any high school campus.

Then there’s the California Motor Voter program launched in 2018, which automatically registers eligible Californians who complete a driver’s license, state ID, or change of address transaction through the DMV, unless they do not choose to unsubscribe.

Reyes said his legislation would provide comprehensive voting education in a school setting, engaging students before they reach voting age.

“We need to find a better way to register our young people to vote. Get them involved in a nonpartisan way, in a safe place at their high school where they can engage in dialogue,” she said.

Under the legislation, schools and school boards would also be allowed to contract with a third-party nonprofit organization with “demonstrated experience in nonpartisan youth civic engagement” to implement the law.

The legislation is currently awaiting review by the Assembly Elections Committee.

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