SACRAMENTO — Assembly Bill 963, authored by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), has been signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. Over the last weeks of session, students from all over California came to advocate on behalf of AB 963, the Student Civic and Voter Empowerment Act, which will give California Universities and Colleges the necessary tools to increase civic engagement and participation in democracy among young voters. (VIDEO)
“For these students, a comprehensive education should not end in the classroom, but extend into the real world,” said AB 963 author Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris. “We want to provide our students with the necessary tools to be engaged citizens, to shape their own political reality and create the future of the great state of California.”
During the 2014 election, only 8.2% of eligible 18-24 year olds voted. Last year, in the 2018 midterm election, that figure climbed to 27.5%. Less than one-third of our youth are voting, engaging in democracy and making their voices heard. The Student Civic and Voter Empowerment Act aims to educate, engage, and empower youth voters to ensure that our elections represent the true potential of our electorate.
California has 147 public universities and colleges with an estimated 3.1 million students, many of whom are newly-eligible voters. AB 963 designates a Civic and Voter Empowerment Coordinator on each campus who shall convene a committee of relevant administrators, faculty members and students to develop a Civic and Voter Empowerment Action Plan for a campus-wide effort to increase civic learning and democratic participation. Civic and Voter Empowerment Coordinators will:
- Consult with the Secretary of State to distribute campus-wide emails to all students with specified voting and election related dates and information, which will be included on all print and online academic calendars
- Post on campus social media to remind students of voter-related dates and information
- Facilitate three events each academic calendar year that focus on civic engagement, voter turnout and community building
- Develop a Civic and Voter Empowerment Action Plan specific to their campus
AB 963 will become operative on January 1, 2020. This bill is supported by: A Band of Voters (Sponsor), CA Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP (Sponsor), March For Our Lives California (Sponsor), Mi Familia Vota (Sponsor), Young Invincibles (Sponsor), American Civil Liberties Union, BruinsVOTE!, CALPIRG Students, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles, Courage Campaign, Dolores Huerta Foundation, Feminist Majority Foundation, Fresno State Associated Students, Inc., Rock the Vote, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Sunrise Movement Los Angeles, Student Debt Crisis, University of California Student Association and Women for American Values and Ethics (WAVE).
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
California Secretary of State, Alex Padilla: “Since 2016, the Secretary of State’s office has led the California Students Vote Project, an innovative public-private partnership to improve civic participation by college and university students. Our 2018 Student Ballot Bowl helped more than 10,000 students register to vote in the weeks leading up to Election Day. The new Student Civic and Voter Empowerment Program will lead to even greater collaboration between the Secretary of State’s office and California’s colleges and universities. Working together we can equip our students with the tools and information they need to become active citizens and develop lifelong voting habits.”
Assemblymember Evan Low, Author of ACA 8: “Nothing is more important than preparing our students for the responsibilities of being an engaged citizen in our democracy. I am proud to support the Student Civic and Voter Empowerment Act. It is time that the State of California and our institutions of higher education work to increase civic engagement.”
Senator María Elena Durazo, Member of the Senate Education Committee: “We need to empower a new generation of voters, especially immigrant, low-income and youth of color. We will build the most democratic society when a significant part of our community is a part of the process.”
D’Aungillique 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.”
Perry Meade, March For Our Lives, Western Regional Director: “By providing a voting coordinator on each campus in the California public higher education system, AB 963 will uplift the student voices and empower students to vote and take part in the political process.”
Kristin McGuire, Western Region Director at Young Invincibles: "California students look to their colleges and universities as a resource as they transition into adulthood and become active and engaged citizens. Today’s young people are the most diverse generation in history, and ensuring their voice is represented at every level of government is critical to ensuring our elected leaders address the unique challenges they face. We support the Student Civic and Voter Empowerment Act because it would make civic participation a core value of every California campus and help every student get the support and knowledge they need to engage fully in our democracy.”
Joey Forsyte, Founder of A Band of Voters: “In 2014, 52% of California students registered to vote. Only 8.2% voted. Why? We learned education is the biggest barrier students face. What is heartbreaking is that students are often ashamed to admit that they don’t know how. They think it’s their fault. But it’s our fault. Registering students is an important step, but not enough to get them to the ballot box. AB 963 would help 3.1 million students learn to vote.”
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."
Elizabeth Rocha Zuñiga, Fresno State, V.P. of External Affairs: “It is crucial for AB 963 to pass, for many reasons. Most importantly because this act will decrease the barriers that students face when wanting to become civically engaged and educated. Allowing this resource on college and university campuses, there will be a positive impact on the lives of 3.1 million students. As we look to our representatives for guidance, we ask you to understand the pivotal role that higher education plays in educating students to take part in our democratic process.”
Jessica Riestra, March For Our Lives, CA Regional Co-Director: “By having AB 963 pass it’ll give students the power to make decisions that will impact their lives. By having someone specialized in the job it’ll give students the information they need to make the best decisions when taking part in the electoral process!”
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."
Ja’Laysha Brown, Fresno State, NAACP/ Black Student Union: “This bill is important because it puts power back into the hands of college students and provides them an easier gateway to impact our future.”
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 first, 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-963), introduced by Chair of the Select Committee on Student Debt, Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris.”
Ry X, March For Our Lives, California Director of Communications: “Reaching students with civic engagement and giving them opportunities allows us to foster that type of responsibility and to better understand the processes that affect our daily lives.”
Serenity White-Ilole, Intern Treasurer, NAACP 17Ai Unit: “I am in full support of this bill because it should not be the responsibility of student organizations or clubs to engage students civically on California college campuses. There are a lot of students who are disenfranchised or just simply face systemic barriers when it comes to knowledge of the voting system. Statistics show that when campuses devote resources to civic and voter empowerment that there is a larger student voter turnout during elections. A lot of students that I know personally seem unhappy with the state of our country but have no idea as to how to create change in a way that is productive. Our universities have taught us that as the future of this country, education is key.”
Clarence Obichere, Fresno State Onyx: “It is important that we get younger minds, especially students on our college campuses, involved in civic and voter engagement. After all, they are the leaders of tomorrow.”