California bill lets 16-, 17-year-olds 'pre-register' to vote

SACRAMENTO — California's state assembly last month approved a bill on party lines that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote, qualifying them automatically when they reach 18. Noit a single Republican voted for it.

Democratic proponents say the bill seeks to take advantage of the students' interest in government at the time they are learning about U.S. government, history and economics in high school. "It's an excellent complement to teaching the importance of citizen involvement," said Assemblyman Curren Price, the Inglewood Democrat who proposed the measure.

Republicans say it's just a ploy to expand Democratic registration in a state where Democrats already outnumber Republicans. "For all their sweet-tongue talk about doing what's right for the country, that's baloney," said Assemblyman Anthony Adams, R-Hesperia. "The truth is, when you're young you tend to think like a liberal," he said. "As you get older and wiser … you tend to become more conservative."

Nearly half of California's public school students are Latino, a key Democratic constituency, so boosting high school registration also could increase the proportion of minority voters gradually — potentially affecting legislative priorities.

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