California teens could submit paperwork to get on the state's voter rolls three years before they are allowed to cast a ballot under legislation introduced in the state Senate this week.
Senate Bill 113, by Democratic Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, would allow Californians to "pre-register" to vote at age 15, giving the state the nation's youngest minimum age for submitting an affidavit of registration.
While the pre-registrants would not be able to vote until they turned 18, the Santa Barbara Democrat said she hopes the change would increase the state's active voter population by linking the "positive experience" of getting a learner's permit at the Department of Motor Vehicles with registering to vote. Teens could also use the state's new online registration system under the measure, which is sponsored by Secretary of State Debra Bowen.
"I see this as an opportunity to encourage teens to make sure they register to vote when they go out and register to get their learner's permit," Jackson said. "We really need to have people at all ages voting and voting in large numbers, and it also encourages more lifelong engaged voters so we end up with a vibrant and healthy democracy."
Bowen touted the proposal as a "powerful tool" to motivate more Californians to vote regularly.
"Young people are more likely to become lifelong voters when they are engaged early, so offering the opportunity to pre-register will be a powerful tool in getting them hooked on democracy," she said in a statement.