California Millennials: Don’t be fooled into thinking your vote doesn’t count

150 150 Alexandra Bjerg

Voter turnout among young people hit an historic high in 2008 with 49 percent of 18-24 year olds casting ballots during the general election that year. 

Just four years later, 52 percent of those young Americans who voted in their first presidential election in 2008 are now unsure of whether or not they are registered to vote at their current address, according to a new survey conducted by HeadCount, a national nonpartisan voter registration organization. 

Young people, particularly students, tend to be seasonal residents that often either forget or are unaware that they must re-register to vote every time they change their permanent address. According to the survey, seven out of ten young voters have moved since the last election, 43 percent of whom have not updated their voter registration. 

I can relate. Now in my mid-twenties, I’ve moved around four different cities more times than I have fingers since I turned 18. As a recovering procrastinator, I haven’t always completed the re-registration process in a timely fashion. Still, I have never missed an election. 

As a naturalized citizen, I had to apply, pass an exam, and take an oath to gain the right to vote, so it is a civic duty I take rather seriously.  Unfortunately, nearly half of my fellow Millennials don’t seem to share this view of civic responsibility. According to the PPIC, as of August, just 54 percent of eligible voters under 25 are registered to vote in California, which amounts to a mere 19 percent of those who are likely voters.

Kamala Harris beat out Steve Cooley to become Attorney General in 2010 by a margin of less than one percent…an outcome easily altered had a few young voters decided to hit the polls. Young people have a real opportunity to decide which candidates or propositions win this November as elections are increasingly being won by slim majorities. But if they aren’t registered, they can’t vote. 

I’ve prepared a guide that will leave you with no excuse to remain unregistered:

California registration requirements: You must be 18 years of age, a US citizen, and a California resident.

How to register: Register online here or print, sign, and mail this application

Think you are already registered?: Check the status of your registration here.

When to re-register: You must update your voter registration every time you move to a new permanent residence, change your name, or change your political party affiliation. 

Registration deadline: October 22, 2012

Where to vote: Find your polling place here.

Required ID: You are only required to show ID if you are a first time voter.  Acceptable forms of ID include: student ID, passport, California issued driver’s license, sample ballot booklet with your name and current address, bank statement, or a recent utility bill. 

Need additional assistance: Call the Secretary of State’s toll-free voter information hotline, (800) 345-VOTE.

If you are still unclear or not convinced of the importance of registering and voting, on Tuesday, September 25, National Voter Registration Day, volunteers, celebrities, and organizations across the country will be hitting the streets to educate, engage, and register thousands of voters.  Exciting events will be held all across the state, click here to find one happening near you. 

California Forward joined the broad-based group of both national and local organizations in support of National Voter Registration Day to empower voters and encourage more Californians to register,  get engaged and vote.  With such a high percentage of young voters not registered this late in the game as a result of confusion, laziness, apathy, or all of the above, raising awareness about voter registration is of critical importance. California must increase its electoral diversity in order to maintain a truly representative democracy. 

Register, vote, and let your voice be heard in November!


Alexandra Bjerg

All stories by: Alexandra Bjerg