Bill Gives Students Extra Time to Vote

AUGUST 24, 2010


College kids are stressed out and have so little time because of exams and college life, they should be allowed an extra five days to vote on campus, according to legislators in the Senate and Assembly.

A Senate bill authored by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, that would permit voting by mail drop off locations on college campuses for an extra five days before elections, was passed by the Assembly Monday.

The bill, SB 970 by Corbett allows the vote-by-mail drop-offs to be created starting with one University of California campus with at least 20,000 students, one California State University campus with at least 13,000 students and a community college with at least 10,000 students.

But the bill passed only after contentious debate. Republicans questioned the excuses that had been shared by students during committee hearings, for needing the extra time and convenient school location for the vote-by-mail ballot drop off.

“We all deal with stress,” Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Stockton, said. “Either they do absentee ballot or go to the polls. This is the wrong message to send to college kids.”

Democrats supported the bill. Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said the younger the person is when they begin voting, the higher the likelihood they will stay a voter all of their adult life.”

But Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, did not mince words with her strong opposition. “Give me a break,” said Harkey. “They have the absentee ballot, and it’s very easy to use. Or they can fill it out at the polling place. Responsible people will vote,” said Harkey. “They will never be less busy than college,” added Harkey, and said her own college-aged daughter voted with an absentee ballot.

To refute the bill, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, used the example of military personnel, who still manage to vote even when stationed overseas. DeVore said that while a student at the American University in Cairo, Egypt in 1984, he managed to vote by absentee ballot.

“They’re too busy between finals and the homework that they have to study for?” asked Assemblyman Anthony Adams, R-Hesperia. “Seriously, this is who you want voting? Because they have to take a test?”

“In Iraq, citizens stood in line for two days to vote, even under the threat of death,” said Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda. “And students in California need an extra few days?” asked Logue.

La Mesa Republican Assemblyman Joel Anderson asked if civics classes in the state were so poor quality, that students couldn’t figure out how to vote.

Some counties already allow drop off locations, and election law permits elections officials to locate polling places on college campuses.

The bill goes back to the Senate after the Assembly voted 43 to 25 along party lines, and then goes to the governor. The governor’s press office reports that he has no position on the bill.

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