Feb. 21, 2007
In California, nearly a third of eligible voters – about 6.7 million Californians – are not registered to vote.Of particular concern is that young people are more negatively impacted by our voter registation system than other demographic groups. In 2004, a presidential election year, just over half of eligible Californians between 18 and 24 years of age were registered to vote (and in nonpresidential elections that rate is even lower). This lack of civic participation is a threat to good governance and a healthy democracy. Current state law limits valuable opportunities for reaching this important and under-represented population.
Current state law and practices. California state law establishes three conditions for voting registration: an individual must be a citizen of the United States; a resident of California; and at least 18 years of age before the next election. Eligible voters register by signing a legal affidavit swearing that she or he is a citizen and has reached the required age. Finally, since passage of the federal Help America Vote Act in 2002, first-time voters in federal elections must show proof of residency (photo ID, current utility bill, bank statement or government document) either at the time of registration or when they show up at the polls for the first time. Registration forms are available at government web sites and offices. In addition, many voters are provided registration forms by political parties or advocacy groups. This all-voluntary basis for voter registration has proven to be ineffective at producing complete or clean voter rolls.