More Than 100,000 California Teenagers Are Now Preregistered To Vote

It's the result of major efforts in the state to increase youth civic engagement.

Over 100,000 16- and 17-year-olds in California are now preregistered to vote, the state’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced on Friday.

Roughly 38 percent of those teenagers registered as Democrat, and 10 percent registered as Republican, with a smattering of other party affiliations represented, according to data released by Padilla’s office. The greatest percentage ― just over 43 percent ― registered with no party preference.

The achievement comes amid a nationwide tide of youth activism over gun control and marks the outcome of recent efforts in the state to increase civic engagement among youth.

“We are seeing the impact that young people can have when they stand up and engage,” Padilla said in a statement. “Since California launched pre-registration, 100,000 soon-to-be voters have answered the call to participate in their democracy. As Secretary of State, I want to do all we can to encourage civic engagement among our youth.”

The state also plans to launch a new web portal that further encourages youth participation, Padilla added. This includes guiding users where to find the nearest mock elections, poll volunteer sign-ups and high school voter education events. He also unveiled a new voter registration card, which his office said was “cleaner, better organized and uses plain language.”

Young voters across the country consistently have some of the lowest election turnouts of any age bracket, and some studies have shown preregistration can help boost their numbers. One 2014 Duke University study found that states that have introduced preregistration laws typically see an increase of youth voter turnout by an average of 2 to 13 percentage points.

California is one of 13 U.S. states, along with the District of Columbia, that allow citizens as young as 16 years old to preregister to vote, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. This preregistration process allows youth to become automatically eligible to vote when they turn 18.

The state passed legislation in 2015 to which establish procedures that can submit voter registration simultaneously with the application for or renewal of a driver’s license. In February, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that expands that measure by automatically preregistering all eligible 16- and 17-year-olds in California when they receive a driver’s license or state ID that law will go into effect in January 2019.

For those preregistered today, anyone who will turn 18 in the next few months will likely be able to vote in a swath of upcoming state and midterm elections.

On the ballot in 2018 are the California governorship, U.S. Senate and House seats, as well as state Senate, Assembly and Supreme Court positions.

“There is no doubt in our minds that young people across California are ready to take their power to the polls,” said Luis Sanchez, co-executive director of civic engagement groups Mobilize the Immigrant Vote and Yvote, in a release. “We support these courageous young people and stand ready to flex their collective power at the polls in 2018 and beyond.”