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California Secretary of State to partner with UC on voter registration

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Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State, announced a partnership with the University of California to increase voter registration and turnout. (Jintak Han/Assistant photo editor)

Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State, announced a partnership with the University of California to increase voter registration and turnout. (Jintak Han/Assistant photo editor)

This post was updated on Sept. 18 at 1:15 p.m.

The California Secretary of State signed a memorandum with the University of California Thursday that aims to increase student voter registration and turnout.

The memorandum of understanding includes measures that will give students a chance to register to vote when they sign up for classes and will use campuswide emails to notify students about key deadlines for the election.

Other measures include implementing a pilot software to pre-populate online voter registration forms with campus-held student information and a website where students and campus staff can learn about facilitating voter registration drives.

Alex Padilla presented the memorandum on the second day of the UC Board of Regents meeting at the UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center.

[Related: Wednesday’s UC Regents Recap]

In his presentation, Padilla noted the low voter turnout rate among youth in the 2014 midterm election, in which only 8 percent of 18-24 year olds voted.

“Eighteen- to 19-year-olds are more likely to be arrested than to cast a vote,” Padilla said.

Although the UC has partnered with the Secretary of State’s office in the past, only 1,500 students registered to vote in 2016 through links from campus websites.

Rafael Sands, USAC external vice president, said 2,700 students registered to vote in the primary through RockTheVote tool on myUCLA.

The Secretary of State office said in a press release that non-profit organizations, including California Public Interest Research Group, California Common Cause and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, helped outline key measures in the memorandum. The Secretary of State’s office partners with those organizations and the California Lieutenant Governor’s office.

California passed a law in 2015 to register voters automatically when they receive or renew their driver’s license. The law took effect Jan. 1, but the system will not be in place until July 2017.

Padilla said he expects the partnership to continue in future elections when people will be able to register through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“We don’t want to wait until students renew their driver’s license,” Padilla said.

Some student and state leaders said they are excited to see this memorandum signed.

“At its most basic, the health of a democracy may be measured by participation at the ballot box,” said Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom in a statement.

Student Regent-Designate Paul Monge helped draft the California New Motor Voter Program, which would encourage the UC to register students to vote as they sign up for classes. The bill passed the state legislature on Aug. 31, and Gov. Jerry Brown has until Sept. 30 to sign it into law.

“(The memorandum) is certainly an affirmation of what the Secretary of State’s office is committed to do,” Monge said.

Regent Bonnie Reiss asked Regent George Kieffer to follow up on the memorandum at the next regents meeting, which will be held Nov. 16 and 17 at UC San Francisco Mission Bay.

Padilla said he expects similar partnerships with the California State University and California Community College system before the Nov. 8 presidential election.

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