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Will Enthusiasm Lead To Greater Turnout For California’s Young Voters?

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

A voter fills out her California primary ballot at a North Natomas Library voting station on June 5, 2018.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Turnout for all registered voters in California jumped to 37 percent in June’s primary election. That’s the highest rate the state has seen in a non-presidential primary in over a decade.

But turnout for one group in particular  — voters under 30 years old — was still disproportionately low.

Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data Inc., said part of the reason for the low turnout is because young people move a lot. Between the ages of 18 to 28, they move about six times. And for Latinos, the number increases by 30 percent.

“If you have a voting system that’s essentially place bound, and you’re moving from your parents house to a college dorm to an apartment to another apartment—unless you’re re-registering religiously every time you move, then you’re essentially falling through the cracks,” he said.

Mitchell also said the low numbers are due to candidates or ballot measures not resonating with young voters.

“Well they might have a lot of anxiety about what’s happening with the president and with [President Donald] Trump’s policies and the national administration," Mitchell said. "For the most part, they don’t see that on the ballot.”

But researchers are hoping this upcoming election will be different.

The Pew Research Institute released a report in June, finding about half of registered voters are more enthusiastic for this upcoming election, specifically for the congressional races.

Mindy Romero, director of the California Civic Engagement Project at the University of Southern California, said the current political climate may be responsible for the uptick.

“With young people, we’re seeing a level of political activity and political awareness that we probably haven’t seen for a while,” she said. “What’s happening is we’re having just a lot of conversation that elevates politics and elevates the act of voting.”

In recent months, California has made an effort to increase voter registration. For example, the Motor Voter Act automatically registers people to vote when they get or renew a licence or state ID at the DMV.

Romero said the state has a ways to go to improve turnout. But she believes it is moving in the right direction.

“What I think we are starting to see here in California, which is really exciting, is a number of election reforms that in some way support young people or at least young people are a part of the targeting around that electoral reform to try to open up access,” Romero said.

The last day to register to vote in California the next election is October 22.

 Election 2018

Sami Soto

PolitiFact California Intern

Sami Soto is PolitiFact California's Summer 2018 intern. This fall, Sami will be a senior at Sacramento State University, where she is a journalism and government major.   Read Full Bio 

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