LWV Registers High Schoolers to Vote

Voter registration is one of the core initiatives for the League of Women Voters of Alameda (LWV). Anne Spanier and Marilyn Ashcraft are leading the League's effort to reach a new segment of those eligible to register to vote. In 2009, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 30 into law, lowering the voter registration age to 17.

LWV contacted the Alameda Unified School District last year to start the process of getting approval to present the registration program to Alameda and Encinal high school students. Soon the League added Island High and St. Joseph's High School to the list.

Almost half of California's eligible voters in the 18 to 24 age bracket are not registered to vote according to New America Foundation. Research conducted in other states found that a preregistration law like AB 30 led to higher rates in both voter registration and turnout.

"The League believes that programs like the Youth Voter Preregistration event will increase the number of youth voters participating in the democratic process," said Anne Spanier at last week's Island High School event. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, there were approximately 4.6 million 17 year olds in the U.S.

This means that more than 12,500 young people turn 18 each day. Registration is thought to be one of the largest barriers to getting people to vote.

Registration is not the only deterrent to participation in the democratic process. Some states do not have permanent and portable registration and actually prevent third party organizations like the League of Women Voters from registering residents. "We take both the registration process and the several options we have for casting our ballot for granted. Other states are not as liberal and there is even a small group that wants to put more restrictions on the right to vote" said Ashcraft.

In a 2011 survey conducted by Rock the Vote, California was one of three states to receive a perfect score in the preparation category for offering pre-registration to 16- or 17-year olds and teaching and testing civics in high schools. The Alameda County Registrar of Voters is very active in developing programs to outreach to youth for early voter registration.

"The League commends the Alameda County Registrar of Voters and the civics instructors at all the high schools for their commitment and dedication," Spanier said.

The League hopes to register 200 youth by the end of the year.


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