California Secretary of State urges Nevada County’s youth to register to vote | TheUnion.com

California Secretary of State urges Nevada County’s youth to register to vote

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla had a simple message to convey to Nevada County's youth:

"If you don't vote, your voice is not heard."

Padilla spoke to students at Nevada Union High School Tuesday as part of a statewide High School Voter Education Week, partnering with the Nevada County Registrar of Voters Office to encourage students to register or pre-register to vote.

Pre-registration, an initiative that went into effect last year, means that eligible 16- and 17-year-olds can pre-register to vote, and have their voter registration automatically become active when they turn 18.

The child of migrant workers, Padilla told the students assembled at NU's Don Baggett Theatre that his parents never talked to him about the importance of voting, because they weren't eligible to vote.

He noted that, like the teens in the audience, he had mostly negative connotations when he thought about politics, a point he proved when he asked them what came to mind when they heard the terms "politics" or "politicians."

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The answers came quickly.

"Liars!"

"Dishonest."

"Bureaucracy."

Padilla said he was cynical at their age, too. But, he told them, participation is essential — because "people are making decisions that affect you, affect your community, affect your schools."

And he stressed the importance of voting in every election.

"Here's the bottom line," Padilla said. "You can have a say in who your representatives are. … Live up to your civic responsibility."

Padilla noted that when election demographics are broken down by age, the biggest potential voting bloc, locally and statewide, are 18- to 25-year-olds. But that age group historically has the lowest rates of registration and voting, he said.

"You all have a lot of power," he said. "Do you think college would be more affordable (if young people) voted? I guarantee it would be."

Padilla also answered questions from students in government classes, discussing some of the work he has done and continues to do to improve voter registration such as automatically registering anyone who applies for a driver's license or other state ID — a program that rolls out in April.

"This will make a big impact on political participation," he said.

After Padilla's speech, more than a few students made a beeline for the table staffed by county elections workers to grab voter pre-registration forms.

Rachel Stuckey, 17, said she believes strongly that voting is a civic responsibility, but she had not been aware that she could pre-register to vote.

"It's a great idea, and way more convenient," she said.

For 17-year-old Danica Minard, being able to vote will mean a chance to have her voice heard when she disagrees with the political opinions of those around her.

Kaitlin Crowley, also 17, cited her grandmother as a role model, calling her "more opinionated than most women" and "super-involved" in politics at a time when such participation was frowned upon.

"She always told me I should register to vote," Crowley said. "It's important to me."

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar email lkellar@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.