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The youth are the future. As adults, parents/guardians, caregivers, educators, and mentors, it is a great duty to prepare them for a future that emphasizes the importance of civic engagement. Research shows that robust civic learning helps beyond the classroom, providing students opportunities to analyze, address, and solve important issues.

Santa Clara County youth, ages 18 to 24, make up 12% of the county’s electorate, however in youth-eligible voter turnout in 2022 was 63%, a 20% decrease since 2016. During this age, there are several life changing events, such as graduation, summer jobs, and leaving the local area for college, which often leads to a lesser chance of them registering and voting.

Pre-registering high school juniors and seniors helps to combat this disengagement. According to the Annual Report to the Legislature on Student Registration, 161,326 California youth ages 16 and 17 pre-registered to vote in 2021. High school juniors and seniors continue to pre-register at a steady rate, according to the report. The Santa Clara County Office of Education assists youth ages 16 and 17 to pre-register so they can be automatically activated when they turn 18 and begin receiving voting materials.

During the last two full weeks of September, High School Voters Education Weeks, encourage your family to learn about voting. These two weeks of awareness are committed to strengthening and motivating students to take an active role in the civic process.

However, civic engagement can begin at an early age. As the first teachers to children, families can learn about local representation, how policy directly impacts them and their communities, the role of elections, and how people can volunteer at polling locations. Students age 16, who are US citizens, maintain a 2.5 grade point average (GPA), and have parent/guardian permission can become student poll workers on Election Day. Students could be eligible for a stipend ranging from $65 to $150.

Families can also visit a voting location to learn how to get the “I Voted” sticker – a small sticker to display pride in exercising a fundamental, constitutional right, and deepens a sense of community while promoting voting culture.

During Voter Registration Month, don’t forget to re-register to vote if you have changed your name or political affiliation. In Santa Clara County, the last day to register to vote for the November 8 General Election is Monday, October 24.

Encourage students to find their voice, and empower them to vote when they become eligible.