On Sunday, the Gold Senate rejected a bill requiring public high schools to register eligible students to vote. It was rejected on stand-up vote with 43 against it and 32 in support of it.
According to Fair Vote, less than ⅓ of eligible voters voted in the primaries last year, and only 60% of eligible voters voted in the general election. Voter apathy, inconvenience regarding Election Day, and the requirement to register are some of the many factors that contribute to these statistics. Delegates from the Valle Lobo YMCA created this bill in order to eradicate the requirement to register in order to increase voter turnout
Senator Ellen Vila from SRV/Valle Lobo YMCA, who spoke as bill sponsor for this bill, said, “I think this bill would really help high school students get more involved, especially seniors who are super busy… [This bill] provides them with a way to get their voter registration done in school.”
Primary bill sponsor Sarah Schroeder, also from SRV/Valle Lobo YMCA, said, “It’s especially important for young people to be civically engaged.” Voter registration has proven to be, “a huge problem with the voting process,” she says.
According to NPR, only 46% of eligible millennial voters voted in the 2016 presidential election. Additionally, in the 2012 election, voters aged 18-29 made up 19% of the electorate despite being about 55% of the population of eligible voters.
Schroeder attributes young people’s low voter turnout to their inability to register due to business with school and extracurricular. She believes that this bill is, “very inclusive and opportunistic for taking a step in the right direction of decreasing marginalization and stereotypes of young people being lazy, disengaged, or apathetic.”
Senator Simelia Rogers, who spoke pro on the bill, from the Berkeley delegation says, “I think it’s really important that youth get involved with civic engagement especially because a lot of people have parents who aren’t aware of civic engagement.” In her pro speech Rogers brought up how immigrant parents’ inability to vote would make their children less likely to register on account of not knowing how to.
“I was inspired by this bill because I worked on a state bill and a city measure allowing 16-year-olds to vote on school board,” said Rogers. She recently sponsored this state bill with Assemblymember Tony Thurmond. Although it did not pass, Rogers and a few other delegates were able to make a measure in Berkeley amending their own city constitution.
Yesterday, there was a bill that was, “very similar to this bill,” says Senator Miles Krick from the SFY/Marin Delegation. In this bill, he says, “The school sends information they already have to the Secretary of State in order to automatically register [students] to the registration process.” The difference between the two bills being that this one allowed “students to register themselves during a certain time in the class,” he says, whereas the other bill had the schools register the students.