A group of high school students stand in a classroom
More than 10,000 high school students in Santa Clara County have preregistered to vote, signaling a groundswell of enthusiasm and commitment to democratic participation among the younger generation. Photo courtesy of Santa Clara County Office of Education.

As Santa Clara County’s high school students prepare to step into the role of active citizens, a crucial component of their civic education is voter preregistration.

California is among the states leading the charge in encouraging youth participation in the democratic process. State law allows eligible 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote, ensuring they are automatically registered once they turn 18. This proactive approach streamlines the registration process and cultivates a sense of civic responsibility from a young age.

In Santa Clara County, where the vibrant tapestry of cultures and perspectives shapes the community’s identity, fostering youth civic engagement is essential for community engagement.

Recent data from the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters underscores the growing momentum of youth civic engagement in the region. As of the latest count, over 10,000 high school students in the county have preregistered to vote. Additionally, among those aged 18 to 22, over 30,000 individuals are registered to vote.

It is important for adults to talk with high school youth and encourage them to preregister to vote. April 15-26 are High School Voter Education Weeks, a time when high schools and students can partner with county elections officials and community leaders to promote civic education and participation on campus.

The importance of youth civic engagement extends beyond the act of voting. It encompasses a broader commitment to understanding our government, advocating for issues that matter and participating in civic life at every level. In a county known for its groundbreaking technological advancements, this includes leveraging digital platforms and social media to amplify voices, mobilize communities and effect positive change.

As high school students in Santa Clara County preregister to vote, they are exploring our political system, grappling with complex issues and honing the critical thinking skills necessary to navigate an increasingly interconnected world. The process for youth preregistration to vote is straightforward and accessible:

  • Eligibility Confirmation: Before preregistering to vote, individuals must confirm their eligibility. In California, individuals who are at least 16 years old can preregister to vote as long as they meet all other eligibility requirements, including being a U.S. citizen and California resident.
  • Online Preregistration: The most convenient way for eligible youth to preregister to vote in Santa Clara County is through the California Secretary of State’s online voter registration portal.
  • Paper Registration Forms: While online preregistration is the preferred method, individuals can also preregister to vote by completing a paper registration form, available in the county at the registrar of voters office, U.S. post offices, public libraries, the Department of Motor Vehicles and other government offices.
  • Submission of Preregistration Form: Signed and completed forms must be submitted to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters. If using the online registration portal, the information will be transmitted electronically to the registrar’s office. For paper registration forms, individuals can mail the completed form to the registrar’s office or drop it off in person. Physical Address: 1555 Berger Drive, Building 2, San Jose, CA 95112 Mailing Address: P.O. Box 611300, San Jose, CA 95161-1300​
  • Confirmation of Preregistration: After submitting the preregistration form, individuals will receive a confirmation from the registrar of voters indicating that their preregistration has been processed successfully. This confirmation may be sent via email or mail, depending on the contact information provided during the preregistration process.

Once preregistered, individuals will automatically become registered voters in Santa Clara County upon reaching the age of 18. They will receive a voter information packet in the mail, which will include details on polling locations, ballot measures and candidates for upcoming elections.

By preregistering to vote, youth in Santa Clara County are taking an important step toward becoming active and engaged citizens. By participating in the democratic process, they have the opportunity to make their voices heard, influence decision-making and shape the future of their communities, both locally and nationally.

San José Spotlight columnist Mary Ann Dewan is the superintendent of schools for Santa Clara County. She has more than 33 years of experience in the field of education. Her columns appear every third Monday of the month.

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