California enacts automatic voter pre-registration


Nina Heller

Shortly after pre-registering to vote, Californians will receive a post card in the mail confirming their registration, as well as to verify their information.

Nina Heller, Staff Writer

Governor Jerry Brown has recently signed into law a bill that automatically pre-registers all voting-eligible 16 and 17-year-olds to vote when they receive a California Driver’s License or California State I.D.

Brown signed this bill into law on Feb. 28, which was written by Assemblymembers Kevin McCarty (D – Sacramento) and Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D – San Diego) and sponsored by California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

This bill comes on the heels of cries for voter registration among the younger generation, specifically 18 to 24-year-olds in the wake of recent mass shootings.

“It is definitely important for teens to be involved in politics because this is our future that we are controlling, and if you don’t put your say in, then you aren’t able to dictate what happens to you,” Lexie Rianda, a sophomore, said.

According to the previously existing law, Californians aged 16 or 17 could pre-register to vote by filling out a form, but the new law provides makes pre-registration automatic. In addition, it will allow people to opt out of voter pre-registration after receiving a state I.D. or Driver’s License.

“I’m encouraged by the preregistration numbers. More young people paying attention, registering, and eventually voting does well for our future,” Padilla said in an interview with CNN.

The initial voter pre-registration program began in September 2016 and has since pre-registered more than 88,700 16 and 17-year-olds, making them automatically registered to vote upon their 18th birthdays, according to a release from Padilla’s office.

“AB 1407 will increase voter engagement by removing the unnecessary step of pro-actively registering to vote, increasing the likelihood of a young person voting in future elections,” Assemblymember McCarty said in an interview with the Pasadena Journal. “We need more young people engaged in the political process and impacting issues like college access and affordability, climate change, healthcare, and housing.”

Some 16 and 17-year-olds who are pre-registering are seeking a path less common in the two-party system: registering with a third party. According to California Secretary of State’s office, 1.56 percent of pre-registered Californians are registered as Libertarian, 0.64 percent as Green Party, 2.33 percent as American Independent, and 1.03 percent as Peace and Freedom Party.

“I think being able to pre-register to vote might convince a lot more people to vote. By encouraging kids to pre-register to vote by adding this to their driver’s license, it will be beneficial and have a lot more impact,” Rianda said.  

AB 1407 will go into place on Jan. 1, 2019 and will impact more than 200,000 people.

“Voting is the first step to make a citizen an active part of the political process. This measure will make sure that all voices in California are heard,” McCarty said.