Photo courtesy of Cal State University, Long Beach
Last week when I wrote about California Millennials, I spoke about my brother as the spokesperson of a class of 2016 whose political apathy knows no bounds. I ended with a plea for California to make good on its online voter registration promise and actually implement it.
Maybe I’m a soothsayer, or maybe coincidences do happen…the point is that California listened: beginning next month, Californians will be able to register online. Secretary Bowen confirmed that they are on track as of last week.
And while I could spit out a few hundred words with my own analysis, I thought it would be more important and far more interesting to get the perspective of my 18-year-old brother Mark on what online registration will mean to the class of 2016 and Millennials in general.
Even though my phone-call woke him up as 1 PM was rapidly rounding first for 2 PM, Mark fought through his grogginess and didn’t disappoint with some analysis on current mail-in registration and more.
“I think that people that are our age, sending something in the mail doesn’t work for us,” Mark said. “I haven’t sent a letter in probably 10 years. Younger people don’t really send letters, everything is digital – why not make voter registration digital?”
However, my brother doesn’t point to the tedium involved with current registration protocol as entirely behind his own unregistered status. “I don’t know [why I’m not registered],” he said. “Laziness? It’s a big decision and I don’t really want to make it just yet.”
He’s hardly alone. According to Mark, a majority of his friends and peers aren’t engaged in politics or registered to vote because they don’t think their voices will be heard. “I think that the general idea for younger people is that their vote doesn’t really do anything,” he said. “You’re told you do have a say in government, but some people when they turn on the news, it makes them lose hope about being able to change anything.”
But online voter registration isn’t going to be the silver bullet to kill that apathy. “The people that aren’t involved in politics whatsoever aren’t going to suddenly register to vote just because it’s online,” Mark said. “The amount of new, younger people that are going to register because it’s online won’t be as substantial as you might think.”
Instead, my brother has his own ideas for improving registration, and it starts with the mandatory government class California high schoolers have to take. “Taking a government class, it seems like it’d be a pretty easy assignment to leave in registering. The job of a government teacher is to prepare students to become voters,” he said. “It’s part of the curriculum to learn about the parties and how to be a voter, so why not put in registration? To me, registering to vote sounds like a good final exam. It sums up all that you’ve learned, and you just do it.”
Also of note to Mark is the time limit voters have to register so that they’ll still be eligible to vote in the November election, a topic that’s received much attention lately.
Voters have until October 22nd – around six weeks – to register in order to be eligible to vote in the November election, and new legislation is working to have that cut-off time neutralized to allow people to both register and vote on election day.
“I think that’s a good idea,” Mark said. “The cut-off period, the only thing it does is prevent people from voting. If you want people to vote, why would you limit their time to vote? Why limit their ability to vote?”
Good questions, and proof that today’s Millennials have more up their sleeves that one might imagine. We’ve already seen that they are the most optimistic demographic in our state based on extensive polling California Forward has conducted. They have faith in government’s ability to be fixed. The first order of business in them participating in the repairs is giving them the mechanism to make their voices heard in the ballot boxes.