Senator Stern Holds First-Ever Interactive Senate Elections Committee Hearing
Students Provide Input on Civic Engagement in Person and Through Video Testimony
Participants in the first California State Senate Elections Committee hearing held at a high school shared their success stories on youth civic engagement with an audience of about 200 high school and college students and others on Friday, March 17. Hundreds of students around the state also watched a live stream of the event and provided video testimony.
The Reseda High event was the first in a series of hearings designed to shape policies aimed at improving youth voter turnout and civic participation in California. Senator Henry Stern, Chair of the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee and the first Millennial elected to the State Senate, is working on SB 596, legislation that will help civically empower the next generation of citizens in California.
“Today is the start of opening a door for you to take control of your government and your future,” Stern said.
While there was great interest in the last election from 18- to 24-year-olds, that did not translate into votes. Data shows this age group had a turnout 22 percent lower than that of the general population, according to the California Civic Engagement Project.
Young people are fortunate to be able to participate, Reseda High School student Shanaz Khosti reminded the audience. “Not taking advantage of that is taking away an opportunity that people around the world are still fighting to earn.”
Panelists shared what works to motivate youth in their communities. Peer-to-peer contact is critical, said Emma Friedl, a UCLA student who works with the California Public Interest Research Group. Bringing elected officials and candidates on campus to talk to students works at Royal High School in Simi Valley, said student Luke Dominick who participates in the Reagan Citizen Scholar Institute there. “There’s a world out there you can make a difference in.”
Samuel Molina of Mi Familia Vota said he inspires young people by reminding them that their votes affect the future of their families and friends. Getting information out to where youth already are is important, said Lauren Reed of NextGen Climate’s Millennial Program.
Participants also included State Senator Robert Hertzberg, Generation Citizen, Foundation for California Community Colleges, California Association of Student Councils, Rock the Vote and the Institute for Local Government.
“We need to find a way to give it that little bump,” Stern said. The youth vote can make a difference in political outcomes. “Every one of you has that ability to tune that dial.”
The video can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtQHdQPu80g&feature=youtu.be (Starting at 28:30 minute mark.)