Landmark Legislation Becomes Law
On October 11, 2009, AB 30 was signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. AB 30, which will lower the voter registration age to 17, will do several good things for California:
1) Provide uniformity and consistency in election administration. Under previous law, some 17 year olds were able preregister to vote (those who would turn 18 before the next election), while others could not. This inconsistent treatment led to confusion and ineffective implementation of voter registration laws.
2) Increase voter registration and voter turnout of young people. Research shows that people who get involved in the electoral process at an early age are much more likely to become lifelong voters. A recent study by The Pew Charitable Trusts also has shown that a preregistration law advanced by Governor Charlie Crist in Florida has led to higher rates of both youth voter registration and turnout.
3) Increase civic engagement among young people. Preregistration can be combined with “voters ed” in high schools, peer to peer outreach, civics days featuring visits from local elected leaders, working at the polls and other vehicles of engagement designed to boost youth involvement.
Almost half of California’s eligible voters in the critical 18-24 age bracket are not registered to vote. Lowering the voter registration age to 17 will involve high school students in the democratic process at a critical point in their lives, and encourage high schools to become more actively engaged in civic education.
Because AB 30 will simplify voter registration requirements and encourage youth to participate, it is no surprise that it earned such broad support. AB 30 was endorsed by the Bay Area Council, a coalition of the 275 largest businesses in the Bay area, as well as by the California Association of Student Councils, AARP and California Alliance of Retired Americans (attesting to its multigenerational support), Secretary of State Debra Bowen, New America Foundation, League of Women Voters of California, Common Cause, Asian American Action Fund, City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Office of Education, Loyola Marymount University, Project Vote, FairVote, Rock the Vote and many others.