As the mandated 154-day report for the primary election nears, Secretary of State Alex Padilla claims voter pre-registration is ‘wildly successful’. This program that kicked off in 2016 targets 16 and 17 year olds to prepare them to vote when they become of legal age. On Friday, Padilla’s office told the California Globe more than half a million teenagers are prepared to vote when they turn 18.
Democrats like Padilla are cheering over the youths involvement and Republicans are expressing concern. The reality is no one can take a teens vote for granted.
A year ago the program had 200,000 pre-registered teens but swelled due to diligent registrations efforts throughout the state. Padilla said that voter turn out is higher when people are pre-registered. President Donald Trumps 2020 Campaign Manager Brad Parscale mirrored a similar message last month. Parscale told a crowd of California Republican delegates that people are more likely to vote if they feel invested. Parscale also spoke about the importance of voter registration.
Since the program’s infancy multiple reports have shown teenagers are rejecting party preference at larger rates than their parents.
A report by the Secretary of State in February showed 51.50 percent of teens were pre-registered as no party preference, 31.66% were democrat and 10.42 percent were republicans. The 154-day report which is expected to be released between mid-October to early November will have updated statistics according to the SOS office.
Democratic advocacy groups are fighting hard to convert those youths to democrats. NextGen America, the San Francisco Group run by billionaire Tom Steyer an anti-Trumper spent millions of dollars in the 2018 campaign season attracting young voters. The millennial vote helped win the house for democrats.
Chairwoman of the California Republican Party Jessica Patterson embraces teenagers being involved in politics. Patterson grew up in East Los Angeles County and began her political career as a high school volunteer for former Governor Pete Wilson.
The coalition of young mobilized voters, however, raise concerns with those in the Republican party. They fear liberal educators will use their position for political activism.
In addition to pre-registering students, schools can also hold Mock Elections to inspire youth to get involved in politics, this can also open the door to educators pushing their political beliefs onto the youth. The Secretary of State has a link on its website to help each school set up their own Mock Election Day.
The fight for youth involvement is not new in California. In 2014 Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1817 into law. This law designated two full weeks in April and September as High School Voter Education Week. It allowed schools to appoint students as voter outreach coordinators who encourage students to register to vote. In February 2018, Gov. Brown signed into law a measure that automatically pre-registers 16- and 17-year-olds who obtain a driver’s license or state identification card. That law took effect in January 2019.
A public service announcement on the SOS Twitter page said pre-registering to vote should be on every students back-to-school checklist. A video was also tweeted with students saying, “We are constantly told we are the future, that our generation will make a difference. Well our time is now.”
According to the Secretary of State’s webpage, the pre-registration does not change the voting age. Instead, it allows eligible Californians teens to complete the online voter registration form providing sufficient time and opportunity to get ready to vote.
The new online pre-registration applies to California youth who are 16 or 17 and meet the following criteria:
- A United States citizen and a resident of California,
- Not currently in state or federal prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony (for more information on the rights of people who have been incarcerated, please see the Secretary of State’s Voting Rights: Persons with a Criminal History), and
- Not currently found mentally incompetent to vote by a court (for more information, please see Voting Rights: Persons Subject to Conservatorship).