Lorena Gonzalez Wants to Educate All California High School Students on How Voting Works

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

SACRAMENTO — (Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019) — New legislation authored by California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D - San Diego) will increase youth voter education, registration and turnout by requiring public high schools to empower students with the information and resources they need to understand the mechanics of voting.

“It’s no longer enough to simply register young voters,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. “We need to literally teach young people how to vote and demystify the entire electoral process, county by county. Too many new voters have never had a family experience of being electorally engaged and we need to provide them with the skills necessary to be involved citizens.”

Most young voters learn how voting works by watching their parents participate in the process. But due to recent demographic changes in California, many young citizens now come from families in which no one has ever voted or may not be eligible to vote.

A 2017 report by the Public Policy Institute of California found a pronounced registration problem among Latinos and Asian Americans families more closely connected to the immigrant experience. These two demographic groups register at lower rates than others, leading to an overall decline in California’s registration rate compared to states where populations of eligible voters are not changing as quickly.

Since 2014, California high schools have been encouraged to create opportunities for students to preregister to vote, with a particular focus of providing voter outreach opportunities during High School Voter Education Weeks (designated as the last two weeks of April and September). In the last general election, young voters experienced a significant increase in eligible voter turnout over the previous midterm in 2014, according to the California Civic Engagement Project, accounting for the highest share of any California statewide midterm general election since at least 2002.

Assembly Bill 773  recognizes that preregistering high school students to vote is no longer enough. The measure would support this increasingly enthusiastic demographic of voters -- especially students who are the children of immigrants -- by requiring school districts to coordinate with county elections officials in developing a course on voter registration.

In this course, all students would learn about the basic mechanics of voting, including: voter eligibility requirements; how to register and preregister to vote; an individual’s voting rights; where to find official, nonpartisan election and voter information; how to find a voting location and what to expect when you get there; and how to complete a ballot through various voting methods.

AB 773 would require these necessary skills be presented to 12th graders during the High School Voter Education Weeks. The bill would also ensure that every public high school senior is given the opportunity to preregister to vote if they are eligible.

In presidential years, because voters who cast their ballots by mail begin receiving those ballots in February, AB 773 would move High School Voter Education Weeks to the last two weeks of January and September.

For more information on AB 773 or to schedule an interview with Assemblywoman Gonzalez, contact Sami Gallegos (209) 658-7617.