State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson strongly encourages sixteen- and seventeen-year-old students to pre-register to vote with the beginning of High School Voter Education Weeks from Sept. 18–29.
“This is a terrific opportunity for educators to talk with high school students about the critical importance of voting, prepare them to participate in elections and pre-register online,” said Torlakson, who started his public service career as a high school science teacher and coach. “Working together, we can educate and encourage our young citizens to register to vote and turn out at the polls to ensure their voices are heard in 2017 and beyond.”
The Legislature in 2014 designated the last two weeks of April and September as High School Voter Education Weeks and authorized schools to designate students as “voter outreach coordinators.” Teachers can help eligible students pre-register or register to vote either on a paper form or online. Voter outreach coordinators can lead registration drives and other school activities aimed at civic participation.
To support this effort, Secretary of State Alex Padilla has launched an online Back to School Pre-Registration Toolkit. The toolkit includes a new “Our Time is Now” PSA video urging sixteen- and seventeen-year olds to pre-register to vote as well as sample social media posts, downloadable posters and brochures, and useful links.
Pre-registration does not change the voting age, which is still 18. Instead, it allows eligible teenagers in California to complete the online voter registration form, so that they are automatically registered to vote when they turn 18.
“Along with backpacks, new clothes, and school supplies, sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds should add pre-registration to their back to school checklists,” said Padilla. “Since we launched in March, nearly 20,000 students have pre-registered to vote online at registertovote.ca.gov. As the school year begins, I encourage school districts statewide to use our online toolkit to inform students about the importance of pre-registration and civic engagement.”
Superintendent Torlakson has long been an advocate for student civic engagement. In 2013, Torlakson and Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye joined together to establish the California Task Force on K-12 Civic Learning. The task force sought to define the skills, knowledge and dispositions that students need to be informed and involved citizens and community members, as well as made recommendations on how to achieve these outcomes for all students. The result was Revitalizing K-12 Civic Learning in California: A Blueprint for Action (PDF).