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California Governor Signs Law to Boost Young Voter Participation

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed legislation, AB 30, allowing the pre-registration of 17-year-olds in the state of California.  The state joins seven others that allow pre-registration at either 17 or 16.  This follows close on the heels of North Carolina, which made their pre-registration age 16 over the summer.  As with campaigns in other states, students themselves were the most persuasive advocates for pre-registration.  Civically-minded youth and student leaders pointed to the opportunity that would be opened for students like themselves to encourage their peers to register and prepare for voting.  Students and a range of advocates including the New America Foundation, AARP, The League of Women Voters and FairVote, made the case the this is a no cost way to boost participation by allowing registration before 18, when many people are in transition.

Young people who start voting early tend to stay regular voters.  Knowing this it is important that we increase the amount of education that young people receive about how to be active citizens, including how and why to vote.  Preregistration increases the salience of civic education by allowing students to register at then, not a year or two afterward.  It is an easy but important step to increasing youth participation and strengthening our democracy that all states should take.  And Massachusetts may be the next one to do so as a member of the House leadership has put this as a top agenda item.  Before going on to list the benefits of preregistering young people, she bluntly stated at a press conference that "[w]e are looking for good bills to pass that don’t cost anything because we don’t have any money.”

Resources:
FairVote - Youth Voter Pre-registration
Progressive States Network - Expand Youth Voting
New America Foundation - Commending Gov. on Passage of AB 30
Progressive States Network - NC Passes Key Youth Voting Reform