Senator Stern, Youth Vote Advocates Applaud Successful Vote on Lowering California’s Pre-Registration Age to 15

April 2, 2019

SACRAMENTO – Senator Henry Stern’s proposal to lower California’s pre-registration age to 15 and enfranchise tens of thousands more voters the day they turn 18 (SB 727) today passed through the Senate Elections & Constitutional Amendments Committee.

“When our sons and daughters turn 18, we want nothing standing between them and their democracy,” said Senator Stern. “By lowering California’s pre-registration age to 15, we have the opportunity to further empower the next generation of voters by closing an inefficient and unnecessary hole in the system. I applaud my colleagues for passing SB 727 through committee and look forward to continuing our march toward youth enfranchisement in the months ahead.”

“Pre-registering young people helps prepare them to become active voters as soon as they turn 18,” said Secretary of State Alex Padilla. “SB 727 will help young people applying for their learner’s permits to benefit from an important pre-registration opportunity. Getting more young people pre-registered and ready to cast their ballots is a practical move that will further strengthen our democracy.”

“I am proud to support Senator Stern’s legislation to lower the pre-registration age to 15,” said Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley). “Just in the past year we have seen high schoolers speak out on issues that will disproportionately affect them as adults, from climate change to gun violence. But when it comes time to vote at 18, these young people are in a time of transition and end up missing the opportunity to vote. By registering at 15, they will be far more likely to vote.”

 

BACKGROUND

SB 727 will permit otherwise eligible 15 year olds to preregister to vote, closing an inefficient and unnecessary hole in California’s New Motor Voter program and ensuring the enfranchisement of tens of thousands of young Californians. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), about 29,600 15 year olds have been issued a driving learner’s permit as of March 2018.

First-time applicants register to vote through the DMV while completing a driver’s license application (form DL-44) which is done prior to issuance of a learner’s permit. In 2018, the DMV began including preregistration of 16 and 17 year-olds in their new “opt-out,” automated voter registration system (New Motor Voter).

This creates an unnecessary hole in preregistration; when a 15 year old completes a DL-44 and passes the written driver’s test, they are issued a learner’s permit, but are not given the opportunity to register to vote because they are not yet 16 years old. After six months of practice and their 16th birthday, they can return to the DMV to take their behind-the-wheel test and get their license, but they are not required to complete another DL-44. The system therefore misses them until they have to renew their driver’s license several years later, notably after they become eligible to vote at 18 years old, given that the period between renewals for California driver’s licenses is 5 years.

Per NCSL, California would be the first state to permit preregistration of 15-year-olds if this proposed bill is enacted. At least 23 other states have enacted legislation permitting preregistration of teen drivers. As of April 2018, there were 100,111 young adults ages 16 and 17 years-old pre-registered to vote since the program began in 2016. Of those, there are over 48,000 pre-registered voters currently.

As the first millennial elected to the California State Senate, Senator Stern has advocated for youth enfranchisement in the political system since taking office. In 2018, he advocated a constitutional amendment to lower California’s voting age to 17 and is supporting the proposal again this year. In 2017, Senator Stern secured the passage and signing of SB 332 to expand California’s voter registration efforts among foster youth. Prior to his time in office, Senator Stern taught civics and advocated for juvenile justice.   

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