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After Parkland shooting, California students aren't just marching, they're registering to vote

People listen to speakers during a March for Our Lives on March 24 in San Luis Obispo.
People listen to speakers during a March for Our Lives on March 24 in San Luis Obispo. (San Luis Obispo) Tribune

Across the nation, students are more engaged. In response to the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., teens across the country organized the March for Our Lives. They didn't just march, or call for gun safety reforms.

They also preregistered to vote — to sustain their movement and take their message all the way to the ballot box in 2018 and beyond.

Alex Padilla.JPG
Alex Padilla

In California, more than 100,000 young people have preregistered since we launched our program in September 2016. After March for Our Lives in March, the numbers surged from about 800 a week to more than 2,000.

This week and next are designated as High School Voter Education Weeks — an opportunity for high schools and students to partner with elections officials to promote civic education and an environment that cultivates life-long voters and active citizens.

Opinion

In San Diego, the county Public Defender's Youth Council is mobilizing at high schools to encourage eligible 16 and 17-year-olds to preregister. It also launched a public service announcement to promote voter registration, education and participation.

In Riverside, students will hold voter registration days that include presentations to government classes. And among the many school events I'll be participating in, I'll be at Rancho Cordova High School at a rally April 24 with hundreds of students with tablets in hand, promoting preregistration. Countless other students will do the same at their schools in every corner of the state.

Preregistration is simple. Eligible 16- and 17-year-olds can complete the process in minutes, using either paper or online forms. When they turn 18, their voter registration is automatically activated.

While we should be proud that this movement is student led, adults should also help. That's why we've launched HighSchool.sos.ca.gov to connect youth with civic engagement information, resources and opportunities.

In addition to preregistration, students can sign up to be poll workers and get paid for their service. They can participate in statewide mock elections to educate their peers about the candidates and issues on the ballot. And they can lead voter registration and preregistration drives on campus.

If you're a parent, administrator or teacher, commit to supporting our youth and encouraging them to get involved and stay involved. Let's keep the momentum going, not just to add another 100,000 preregistrations, but 100,000 new voters once they turn 18.

Alex Padilla is California’s Secretary of State. He can be contacted at secretary.padilla@sos.ca.gov.

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