Bill would allow 15-year-olds to pre-register to vote

Students from Fairfax High School participate in a science contest. A state bill would allow those as young as 15 to pre-register to vote when they turn 18.
(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

SACRAMENTO -- Californians as young as 15 would be able to file papers enabling them to vote in elections as soon as they turn 18 under legislation endorsed this week by a state Senate Committee.

The measure by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) would lower the age of pre-registration from 17 to 15 starting next year as a way to get more young people to participate in the political process.

While no other state allows pre-registration at 15, there are 14 states that allow registration before 18, including Alaska and Kansas. Supporters said many 15-year-olds have their first interaction at that age with the Department of Motor Vehicles, where voter registration applications are available.

“As many young people are going to the DMV for their learner’s permit on their way to a driver’s license, it would be a perfect opportunity to capture them to register to vote,” said Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima).

Only half of eligible citizens aged 18 to 24 register to vote, compared with up to 80% of other age groups, according to Bart Broome, deputy secretary of state and a supporter of the bill.


However, SB 113 was opposed by some of those at a hearing of the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee, including Linda Paine, co-founder of the Election Integrity Project.

Paine said adding 1.5 million minors to the paperwork maintained by election officials will be a burden for an “already strained electoral system,” and it will lead to campaigns and political groups badgering minors with phone calls and mail even though they are not eligible to vote.

Sen. Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) was the only member of the committee to oppose the bill, agreeing that it would create an unnecessary cost. “We’re going to have to track those people,” Anderson said, referring to the need to update records as the young people move during the three years before they can vote. “I don’t want to create a bigger burden.”


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