Students advocate in support of AB 963

Students from all across California traveled to Sacramento Tuesday, August 27, 2019, to ask the Senate Appropriations Committee to support Assembly Bill 963, the Student Civic and Voter Empowerment Act. By establishing Civic and Voter Empowerment Coordinators, AB 963 will provide California Universities and Colleges with the necessary tools to increase civic engagement and participation in democracy among young voters.

“We heard today from student advocates from across the state and the message is clear – there is a critical need to engage young voters in our democracy,” said AB 963 author Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach). “By designating a Civic and Voter Empowerment Coordinator on each campus, we can nurture an engaged and informed electorate.”

California has 147 public universities and colleges with an estimated 3.1 million students, many of whom are newly-eligible voters. Available data shows that when college campuses devote resources to developing an action plan, it results in strong voter turnout. For instance, UCLA participated in the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge and reported a 537% increase of in-person student voters during the 2018 midterm election.

AB 963 requires Civic and Voter Empowerment Coordinators to:
-Consult with the Secretary of State to distribute campus-wide emails to all students with specified voting and election related dates and information, and to include these dates on all print and online academic calendars.
-Post on campus social media to remind students of voter-related dates and information.
-Develop a Civic and Voter Empowerment Action Plan specific to their campus.

AB 963 will be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee at this year’s final fiscal hearing on Friday, August 30, 2019. The 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, 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

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: “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.”

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.”

This article was released by the Office of Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris.