Photo Courtesy of the Secretary of State

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has announced a historic partnership between the Secretary of State’s office, The California State University (CSU) system, and the California State Student Association (CSSA) via a memorandum of understanding (MOU).

This MOU completes support from all three of the state’s higher education systems, which underscores the importance of supporting student voter registration and education efforts across California.

The partnership with the CSU encourages all 23 campuses and eight off-campus centers that constitute the system of the California State University system to participate in the California Students Vote Project.

“Today’s announcement secures system wide support for student voter registration efforts on every publicly funded college or university in our state,” said Padilla on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time the publicly funded higher education system(s) and a Secretary of State have signed a commitment to support voter registration efforts at this scale. I look forward to working with each of the systems, advocacy organizations, and student organizations to register, engage and empower the more than 2.7 million students in our higher education system.”

The MOU encourages campuses to implement best practices as outlined by The California Student Vote Project, which include:

— asking students during optimal time periods or via their student portals to register to vote;

— sending all-campus emails and notifications about the importance of voting before voter registration deadlines and elections and;

— implementing said practices for on-the ground, education and voter registration efforts on campus housing and other high-traffic areas on campus.

“Today’s Voter Registration and Engagement Memorandum of Understanding promote a democracy that is more inclusive of people’s voices, increasing the civic engagement and literacy of CSU students,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White.

“We are excited to be taking this positive step with the CSU Chancellor’s Office and Secretary of State’s office to promote student engagement in the democratic process. This MOU demonstrates our collective commitment to increasing civic engagement and elevating the voices of CSU students across the 23 campuses,” said David Lopez, CSSA president and student at CSU East Bay.

“We understand that only by working together will we have a chance at addressing the systemic problem of low voter engagement among college students, so we thank Chancellor White and Secretary Padilla for partnering with CSSA on these important voter registration initiatives.”

The CSU MOU is unique in that the California State Student Association (CSSA), a non-partisan, membership-based advocacy organization governed by a student board of directors, took a central role in advocating for this MOU, but also in being incorporated in the MOU.

The CSSA, as outlined in the MOU, will provide volunteer support, additional communications, field outreach, voter education, and an online voter registration platform and link(s) that can be used by any CSU stakeholder to promote voter registration efforts.

The Secretary of State’s office created a webpage which hosts resources for campuses, faculty and students for frequently asked questions related to voting, sample posters, sample social media posts for voter registration efforts, key deadlines and dates, and a guide to facilitate voter registration drives, as outlined in the MOU,.

“I commend Secretary Padilla’s drive to bring the democratic process to Californians, pro-actively expanding access for citizens to participate in governance,” said Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. “Young voters stand to inherit today’s decisions and we have agency to ensure those voices have every opportunity to be represented.”

Support was voiced by other organizations

“The Cal State University system educates hundreds of thousands of young people from diverse communities, the people who will be this state’s civic leadership for decades into the future. This agreement will help bring many of those young people into California’s democracy for the very first time. We applaud the CSU’s administration and its students for their commitment to voter registration and civic engagement,” said Jonathan Stein, voting rights program manager for Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus.

“California is paving the way for students, drivers, and new Californians to register to vote,” said Kathay Feng, Executive Director of California Common Cause. “Today’s partnership between Secretary of State Padilla and President White clears a path for eligible CSU students to become voters.”

“Voting is habit-forming, and students who vote when they are young are more likely to be life-long voters. Thank you Chancellor Tim White, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom for recognizing that the university should be encouraging students to be engaged participants in our democracy,” said Emily Rusch, executive director for CALPIRG. 

In the 2014 General Election, only 52 percent of eligible youth were registered to vote, which was more than 20 points below any other age group, and only 8 percent of eligible youth aged 18-24 voted.

A report released by the Secretary of State’s office in 2014 stated that only 8,454 of the 2.8 million students at California’s public colleges and universities registered to vote through an online opportunity provided by their campus, which is a mere 0.3 percent of the student body.

To view the California Students Vote Project page, visit: http://www.sos.ca.gov/castudentsvote

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