Proposals would make it easier for youth to vote
January 29, 2014
By Katy Grimes
Democrats are pushing new legislation to make it easier for young people to vote. Given that young people in California register 2-to-1 for Democrats over Republicans, the bills could make Democrats even more dominant and accelerate Republicans’ waning power.
Senate Bill 113 is by state Sen. Hanna-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara. It would pre-register high school students to vote at age 16. Introducing her bill in the Senate Tuesday, she said there are similar laws in Florida and Hawaii.
She said pre-registration encourages young people to vote once they are eligible at age 18; and makes it more likely they will become lifelong voters.
“It does not change the voter age,” Jackson said Tuesday in the Senate. “Once they turn 18, the registration is automatic. This is great for Democracy to invest in the system. It’s their future.”
Sen. Joel Anderson, R-La Mesa, said the legislation would likely create a giant paper trail for the Secretary of State and local elections officials who would have to track the registration records. Anderson also warned that, if the teens move and don’t realize they must re-register, they won’t be able to vote.
Vote by mail at college
SB240 is by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco. It would establish at least one vote-by-mail ballot drop box within each campus of all state universities and colleges.
Yet the vast majority of public universities in California have actual polling places on campus on Election Day, according to the bill analysis.
“Senate Bill 240 ensures that young voters’ voices are heard at the ballot box by allowing University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) students to drop off their vote by mail ballots on campus. While in college, many students will be voting for the first time. Together with online voter registration, students can effortlessly register or reregister to vote with their new address, request a vote by mail ballot, and drop off the completed ballot on campus.”
Out-of-county student voter disenfranchisement
Many students attending college away from home are typically registered to vote in their home county, not the university’s county. And each county’s registrar of voters is not required to forward vote-by-mail ballots to the student’s county of origin, so these student voters could be disenfranchised, according to the bill’s analysis.
The bill analysis explained how easy it already is for the budding scholars to vote:
“While in college, many students will be voting for the first time. Together with online voter registration, students can effortlessly register to vote, and on Election Day have convenient and easy access to a polling place on their university or college campus.”
ACA 7 is by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco. In the bill summary’s words:
“Allows a person who is 17 years old and who will be 18 years old at the time of the next general election to register and vote in that general election and in any intervening primary or special election that occurs after the person registers to vote.”
This new bill is similar to ACA 17 in 2005 by former Assemblyman Gene Mullin, D-South San Francisco, the father of Kevin Mullin. It sought to lower the voting age to 17, but only for young people who would be 18 before the next general election.
The goal was to allow them to vote in the primary for that general election. Several attempts to pass the constitutional amendment failed, falling short of the two-thirds vote needed to put the change on the ballot.
Automatic voter registration
Finally, from outside the Legislature comes another proposal. Instead of the voluntary voter registration process in the United States, the left-leaning New America Foundation has proposed a law directing the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Franchise Tax Board to send to the Secretary of State’s office the names and addresses of every person who would be 18 by the next election.
The Secretary of State then would automatically register those people to vote. “This would add millions of eligible Californians to the voter rolls,” the NAF said on its website.