Letters to the Editor: Why wait until college to register young people to vote? Reach them in high school

2018 election
People vote in California’s June 5, 2018, primary election at a polling station in Burbank.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I appreciate Harvard professor Kathryn Sikkink’s enthusiasm for programs that register college students to vote, but it’s important not to overlook the millions of young people who do not go on to college after high school.

These young adults disproportionately come from low-income and minority families, and most will never be asked to register. The best way to register them to vote is to reach them while they are still in high school.

More than 3.7 million students will graduate from high school this year. High school seniors in 34 states can register to vote now if they will be 18 by November 2020 (California allows citizens as young as 16 to pre-register to vote).


Don’t let these students fall through the cracks in our democracy. Register them to vote while they are still in high school through programs such as those offered by The Civics Center, an organization I help lead.

As Sikkink suggested, young people are not apathetic, they just need a little education to get to the voting booth.

Vicki Shapiro, Los Angeles

The writer is director of special initiatives for The Civics Center, a project of Community Partners.


To the editor: I wonder how many other readers were as amazed as I was about the intelligence of Sikkink’s Harvard students.

I did not go to Harvard and could not have gotten in had I applied, but I never “found voting difficult and complicated.” I had absolutely no trouble registering to vote at 18 (in 1973) nor in obtaining an absentee ballot on the rare occasion that it was needed.


Even assuming that current culture does not teach students where mail comes from, I would expect the best and brightest to at least know to ask an old person where to get a stamp, which the professor indicates is an impediment to voting.

Frankly, it appears that 30 years from now, our country’s leaders are going to be a rather ignorant group. I would suggest the professor contact some of her Harvard colleagues to find what causes this and propose emergency solutions to the extraordinary ignorance of the best that American can currently produce.

Joel Drum, Van Nuys