CA Bill Would Lower the Voter Preregistration Age to 15

California District 19 Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson / PHOTO: Sen. Jackson’s Facebook[/caption]

A proposed California initiative would lower the voter preregistration age to 15.

Under the bill put forward by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-CA), 15-year-olds could preregister when they get their learner’s permit at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Pre-registrants would remain ineligible to vote until they turn 18.

“I see this as an opportunity to encourage teens to make sure they register to vote,” Jackson said. “We really need to have people at all ages voting and voting in large numbers, and it also encourages more lifelong engaged voters so we end up with a vibrant and healthy democracy.” Tweet this quote: 

Under the Motor Voter Law of 1995, people are allowed to register through the DMV and many other government agencies, a move to make registration more accessible. Jackson reasons that “becoming a driver is an important rite of passage, and so is becoming a voter,” so pairing the two together is convenient.

Pre-registrants also have the option to apply through the Secretary of State’s online registration system or by mail. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen is sponsoring the bill.

“Young people are more likely to become lifelong voters when they are engaged early, so offering the opportunity to preregister will be a powerful tool in getting them hooked on democracy,” Bowen told The Sacramento Bee. Tweet this quote:

According to Jackson’s press release, Florida, Hawaii, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware, and the District of Columbia already allow voter preregistration at the age of 16. Oregon allows voter preregistration at the age of 17.

Unlike the Jackson press release, which states that “preregistration programs in Hawaii and Florida encouraged young people to start voting and keep voting,” a George Mason University case study on the programs in Hawaii and Florida showed that this type of program is not very effective.

The study concludes the number of preregistration applications generated through impersonal means such as the DMV or through the mail were less than those acquired from Rock-The-Vote-style assemblies.

“Preregistration is most successful when it occurs with face-to-face contacts between young people and election administrators or
other volunteers. Simply enacting a preregistration law is insufficient to engage young people to preregister,” the study states.

According to the release, nearly one-quarter of all Californians who are eligible to vote are not registered. Participation is even lower for young voters, with only half of eligible voters registered. Share this fact: