Get Out the Vote? Some Youth Advocates Say They’re Being Stymied at Central Valley High Schools.
Despite near unanimous agreement on the need for more civic engagement among young people, some voter participation advocates in the Central Valley say they’re facing roadblocks from teachers and administrators while trying to get out the vote.
Young activists — including some associated with youth organization Power California — say they have run into problems launching voter registration drives and presentations at schools in Avenal, Bakersfield, Delano, and Exeter. In some cases, requests to hold events on campus have been denied. In others, advocates have been forced to censor some of their material.
Administrators say they fully support the goal of mobilizing young and disenfranchised voters but that some of the messages being brought to campus cross the line into political advocacy. Voting rights for felons and undocumented immigrant participation in election efforts are two hot-button issues that have resulted in rejections or censorship from staff.
The difficulties voter advocates face come at a time when California is pulling out all the stops to promote the youth vote. In 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation mandating voter education in all California high schools. A year later, he signed a bill establishing High School Voter Education Weeks aimed at increasing voter engagement and participation on high school campuses. California is also one of 14 states that allows 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote before they turn 18.
Despite those efforts, there is more work to be done. Young adults between the ages of 18 to 34 make up 33% of the state’s adult population but only comprise 18% of likely voters, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
Read more about the clash between voting advocates and school administrators here.