State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson proposed a bill this month that would allow citizens as young as 15 years old to pre-register to vote upon receiving a learner’s permit or driver’s license.
While college campuses have put forth immense efforts toward upping student voter registration, such as UCSB’s record-breaking registration of over 11,000 new voters this year, Senate Bill 113 targets high school-aged students. Jackson’s proposal would allow these teens to pre-register to vote at the Department of Motor Vehicles while obtaining a learner’s per- mit or driver’s license, by mail or online.
According to Jackson, seven other states have already allowed voter pre-registration to start as early as 16 or 17 years of age.
“They go in, sign up and get their permit. The people at the DMV let them know that they have the oppor- tunity to pre-register,” Jackson said. “When they turn 18, they’ll get a notice in the mail telling them that they’re registered to vote.”
Jackson’s bill is sponsored by the state’s chief elections official, Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who was inspired by a study released in 2009 by George Mason University, concluding that allowing pre-registration ultimately increases young voter turnout. According to the George Mason University study, thousands of young people took advantage of the pre-regis- tration, making a positive impact and prompting persisting long-term effects on voting propensity.
According to Jackson, the pre- registration bill would work toward increasing voter turnout, as the bill would make voter registration more accessible and would get citizens to start voting at a younger age.
“I am eager to encourage young people to vote,” Jackson said. “It’s a vote that ref lects the future.”
UCSB College Republicans Vice President Andres Rey said he envisions the bill becoming a bipartisan, untapped opportunity to increase votes throughout the state.
“People should vote and we should encourage it,” Reys said. “You should believe in the dem- ocratic process … even though Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson is a Democrat, this is bipartisan. Any mem- ber of a democracy should want this.”
The George Mason University study on voter preregistration takes the impor- tance of incorporating education into account, stating that an increase in edu- cation about the voting process would also result in a higher voter turnout rate.
“These programs’ greater success may be attributed to a broader civic educa- tion component, where young people are educated about the process and rel- evance of registering to vote,” the study stated. “The [concluded] voter turnout stimulus may thus arise from exposure to civic education programs and not directly [from] preregistration.”
A version of this article appeared on page 3 of January 25th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.