Almost every member of the Class of 2020 in California high schools will be old enough to vote next November. But will they be registered? Governor Gavin Newsom just vetoed AB 773, which would have required public high schools to give students the opportunity to register or pre-register to vote and to teach students about the voting process.
The Governor’s veto message said youth voter turnout is already increasing in the State without additional investments. While young adults indeed turned out in greater numbers in 2018, youth voter registration and thus voting rates still lag well behind the registration and turnout rates of other age groups. A February 2019 study by the California Civic Engagement Project at USC concluded: “A significant challenge for youth turning out to vote is their continuing low registration rates compared to older Californians. In the 2018 general election, the gap in registration rates between youth and older (age 65-74) Californians was 24 percentage points.” And while roughly 27 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds turned out to vote in 2018, the overall turnout rate was double that.
AB 773 would have dramatically improved youth voter registration rates. Registering high school students to vote presents a golden opportunity to register teens before they go to college or join the workforce. And voter pre-registration, which automatically adds 16- and 17-year-olds to the voter rolls when they turn 18, extends that opportunity to the entire senior class. Secretary of State Alex Padilla recently announced a laudable, nationwide campaign to champion legislation to expand voting rights and access through measures like voter pre-registration.