California is home to the largest electorate in the nation. More than 24 million Californians are eligible to vote, but too few actually do.
“We had abysmal turnout figures in the 2014 election cycle,” Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) said. “Our democracy in California is bordering on a crisis point here.”
While voter participation is typically lower in non-presidential elections, turnout in both November 2014 statewide primary and general elections shattered the previous record lows, due in large part to paltry participation among youth.
Fewer than two in 10 eligible California voters bothered to cast a ballot in last year’s primary. Turnout among eligible youth, though aged 18-24, was a paltry 3.7 percent, according to a report by the California Civic Engagement Project (CCEP) at UC Davis. That means more than 96 percent of young voters sat out California’s gubernatorial primary election (!).
A constitutional amendment, ACA 2, scheduled to be heard in the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee Wednesday aims to boost youth voter participation. Assemblymember Mullin has reintroduced legislation to amend California’s constitution to permit 17-year-olds to vote in primaries if their 18th birthday falls before the general election.
ACA 2 would let these young adults have a say in which candidates will ultimately appear on the November ballot. California is already one several states that allows 17-year-olds turning 18 before the next election to register to vote. Studies show that voting is habit forming, so engaging youth in the electoral process early can lead to lifelong voting. Californians that don’t vote have little say in selecting the leaders that make policy decisions that impact their daily lives.
Watch the video above to hear Assemblymember Kevin Mullin at the 2015 Future of California Elections Conference in Sacramento share his thoughts on what’s depressing voter turnout and what can be done about it.