Democracy depends on a foundation of checks and balances, the rule of law, and citizen participation. The education community is responsible for making sure students understand how important it is for them to participate in the election process. This month, the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) is highlighting the California High School Voter Education Weeks, a two-week period—September 19–30, 2022—set aside by the California Education Code to put more students on the path to a lifetime of civic engagement and voting.
Registration opportunities for new voters are highlighted during the annual promotion each September. Students who are 18 years old are encouraged to register to vote, while 16- and 17-year-olds are eligible to pre-register (automatically becoming active voters when they turn 18). Students who are at least 16 years old are also encouraged to serve as poll workers.
While young people have traditionally voted at lower rates than older adults, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University found that there were major increases in youth voter turnout in 2018 and 2020. In an encouraging sign that civic engagement is increasingly important, CIRCLE estimates that 50% of U.S. youth voted in 2020—a major 11-point increase over 2016. Through continued focus and education, students can continue this trend, leading to a more equitable and representative American democracy.
Students in many SCOE programs will be researching the seven propositions on the ballot with classes creating informational presentations highlighting pros and cons of one of the propositions. The presentations will be recorded and shared with other classes. Leo A. Palmiter Jr./Sr. High School and Elinor Lincoln Hickey Jr./Sr. High School will be conducting a mock election in October. Voter registration was also encouraged in the Palmiter computer lab during the school’s recent Back to School Night.
SCOE encourages all high school teachers and administrators to make the Voter Education Weeks part of their school’s civic engagement activities. Teachers can help eligible students register or pre-register to vote with a paper form or online. Paper voter registration applications are available at many schools, plus the county elections office, DMV offices, and post offices.