RELEASE: Civic and Voter Empowerment Act for All Public Colleges and Universities - Bill Advances to Enhance Student Voter Engagement

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – In an effort to engage and empower a new generation of voters, Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach) is carrying Assembly Bill 963, the Student Civic and Voter Empowerment Act. After passing the Assembly floor 63-7-10, the bill passed 4-1 in Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee today, July 2, 2019.

“Democratic participation is a core American value. Providing the knowledge and necessary tools to engage our young voters in the democratic process is pivotal,” said Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris. “Hundreds of thousands of students become eligible voters while in college, and it is crucial that our institutions of higher learning engage students in our democracy.”

California’s public colleges and universities are home to an estimated 3.1 million students, many of whom are eligible voters. However, many students face systemic barriers to exercising their right to vote, such as a lack of civic education and adequate information about voting.

This bill will require public colleges and universities to designate a Civic and Voter Empowerment Coordinator, who will be tasked with developing a Civic and Voter Empowerment Action Plan and facilitating events throughout the academic year that focus on civic engagement, voter turnout, and community building. In addition, the bill will require that all relevant civic and election dates be included in the annual academic calendar and have students be notified via email and social media about the dates.

Available data shows that when college campuses devote resources into developing an Action Plan focused on civic and voter empowerment, it results in strong voter turnout.

What Supporters are Saying:

D’Aungellique Jackson, Vice President of NAACP Fresno State Chapter: “It is only a matter of time before my generation floods the job market, political arenas, and other sectors of society that require a civically engaged citizen with a tendency to vote. And in knowing that, it behooves the lawmakers of our beautiful state to set standards that ensure our generation, and those that follow, are enthusiastic and prepared to complete their civic duty.”

Kristin McGuire, Western Region Director at Young Invincibles: "Founded in 2009 by a group of students, Young Invincibles works to amplify the voices of young adults in the political process. Through our leadership of the Students Learn Students Vote (SLSV) Coalition, a group of more than 350 nonpartisan organizations that work to institutionalize democratic engagement on college campuses and increase student voter turnout in the process, we developed a set of best practices that campuses should implement to educate and empower students to be civically engaged. These best practices include having a campus staffer designated to lead student democratic engagement programs, participating in the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, forming an on-campus democratic engagement working group, and implementing a democratic engagement action plan. AB 963 takes this model, collectively known as the SLSV Checklist, to the next level by requiring all public institutions in California to implement this highly effective model. We wholeheartedly support this bill and are so grateful that the Golden State continues to lead the country in promoting democratic engagement among its students."

Jen Tolentino, Director of Policy & Civic Tech at Rock the Vote: "Rock the Vote's mission is to build the long-term political power of young people, ensuring they have the information and resources they need to participate in our democracy and have a meaningful impact in their communities. AB 963 would reach young people on college campuses across California and help establish life-long habits of voting. We must invest in the civic education of the next generation of voters by reaching them where they are, which is often on college campuses, with the information they need to be a voter."

Elisa Chang, Campaign Coordinator of CALPIRG Students New Voters Project, UC Riverside: "We can talk about facilitating the voting process for college students but it doesn't matter if we don't have an actual plan that details how that's going to happen. It is vital that we incorporate voting in every step of the college process because it is important for the youth to develop habits of voting so we can elect representatives who truly represent the population."

Cody Hounanian, Program Director at Student Debt Crisis: “When students lack important voter information and resources they cannot fully exercise their rights or express their voices. That means bad-acting politicians, student loan companies, and big banks are free to create student loan policies that serve their interests firsts, costing California’s families billions more in education expenses. Like most issues facing students and borrowers today, the road to reform starts with empowering civic engagement and strengthening voter rights. That is why we fully support the Student Civic and Voter Empowerment Act (AB-936), introduced by Chair of the Select Committee on Student Debt, Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris.”