It will be easier for California college students to register to vote in the next two years after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Student Voter Act into law Wednesday.
Assembly Bill 2455, also known as the Student Voter Act, will require the California State University and California Community College systems to allow students who enroll online to submit a signed voter registration form electronically to the Secretary of State’s website. The bill also encourages the University of California to implement a similar system.
The bill mandates CSU and CCC to implement their online voter registration systems by July 1, 2018.
UC Student Regent-Designate Paul Monge and UC Berkeley law alumna Cindy Dinh helped draft the law as part of the “There Ought to Be a Law” program organized by their local state assembly member, David Chiu.
Chiu said in a statement he thinks it is important for students to get involved and make their voices heard to deal with issues that affect them.
“Making it easier for students to register to vote when they enroll for classes is the first step in getting them to the polls,” Chiu said.
Chiu added he thinks the infrastructure created under the new law serves as the first of many steps towards the creation of an automated voter registration system for students enrolled at state public college and university campuses.
Monge said he was excited to hear Brown sign the bill into law, and he thinks it shows how students can get involved in the legislative process.
He added that with a process to streamline voter registration in the works, the next challenge is getting students to the polls.
“Voter registration is very dependent on time and resources,” Monge said. “People and campus groups that used to register voters can now focus on voter education and engagement to encourage them to vote.”
Secretary of State Alex Padilla and UC President Janet Napolitano signed a memorandum of understanding at the September UC Regents meeting that committed to registering and encouraging more students to vote.
Padilla cited the 8 percent voter turnout for 18-to-24-year-olds in the November 2014 elections as a reason to try to increase voter turnout among young people.
One of the tenants of the memorandum calls on the UC to develop a program that would prepopulate online voter registration forms with information the University already has.
Claire Doan, UC spokesperson, said the UC and Secretary of State’s office are committed to carrying out the tenants of the memorandum as described.
“Now that (the memorandum) has been signed, we will begin working with our campuses as they set up the technology that will allow us to prepopulate forms as part of the pilot program,” Doan said.
Monge said he thinks it’s important to keep students interested in elections and make sure they understand the importance of their decision.
“In order to win the battle, we all have to make sure we’re doing enough to build interest,” Monge said. “We need to meet young people where they are, like social media, and leverage every means available to do that.”