Youth Voter Registration Lags in LA, State's Poor Areas — UCSD Study
Voter registration rolls of young Californians swelled between 2002 and 2010, but young voters remain unrepresented and unevenly distributed across the state says a new study released today by the University of California, Davis. The study also pointed to wide gaps in youth voter registration, as compared to the general population, in some of the state's poorest areas, including Los Angeles and San Diego.
Voter registration among 18- to 24-year-old Californians increased 25.6% over the eight-year period, adding 319,359 young adults to the rolls and surpassing the 13.7% increase seen in the general population. While that might seem like good news, many more need to join ranks if the youth-voter segment is to achieve parity with the statewide average.
Only 49.4% of eligible young adults had registered to vote, as compared to the 77.5% rate for the statewide electorate. An additional 890,000 young adults would need to register to vote to achieve parity with the statewide average recorded in the 2010 election, the study concluded.
The study also found that the Sacramento region and Bay Area had the highest concentrations of registered young voters, while some of the poorest areas of the state had the lowest.
"There has been tremendous growth in the size of the youth electorate, and this is the good news," said Mindy Romero, a researcher at the UC Davis Center for Regional Change and author of the study said in a news release. "But their registration numbers are still significantly lower than the general population, and it is clear that areas with the fewest resources for youth, such as jobs and educational opportunities, have the worst youth voter representation."
Sacramento County had the highest rate of voter registration in the age group, with 54.2 percent registered to vote. In the Bay Area, 53 percent of eligible young adult voters had registered. The lowest rates were in the far north part of the state (39 percent), the San Diego area (43.7 percent) and the San Joaquin Valley (44.7 percent).
Los Angeles, San Diego and the north state had the widest gaps in registration rates between young adults and the general population. In the Los Angeles region, for example, 80 percent of all eligible voters were registered, versus less than 50 percent for young adults.
"In other words, youth in these regions have significantly less representation than the general population in these same regions. We wonder what is happening here.
The youth are somehow getting lost in these regions, " Romero said.
Los Angeles, the north state and the San Joaquin Valley have the highest poverty levels in the state, and some of the highest high school dropout rates and lowest college-going rates.
"Youth that have the most need have the smallest voice in the decisions that affect their lives and their communities," Romero said.
The study uses data from the Statewide Database, the redistricting database for California.
Hassina Leelarathna is Senior Editor of CivicLA.
This article originally appeared in CivicLA.
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