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Your Right to Vote Toolkit

Did you know you have a human right to vote in your government’s elections? America is notorious for its low voter turnout. Only a little over a third of eligible voters are predicted to vote in these 2018 midterm elections. So, the question becomes: Why is this happening? Why are so many voting-age Americans not voting? This toolkit looks at the voting rights of U.S. citizens and is meant to help you educate voters and encourage their participation in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.

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Voting in the U.S. Fast Facts

  • The Census Bureau estimated that there were 245.5 million Americans ages 18 and older in November 2016, about 157.6 million of whom reported being registered to vote.
  • Voter pre-registration: Preregistration is an election procedure that allows individuals younger than 18 years of age to register to vote, so they are eligible to cast a ballot when they reach 18, the voting age for all state and federal elections. Rules vary by state:
    • Beginning at 16-years-old: California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah and Washington.
      • Almost 90,000 16- and 17-year-olds have preregistered to vote in California since a new law enacted in 2016 gave youth the opportunity to sign up to vote before they are eligible. (CNN)
    • Beginning at 17-years-old: Maine, Nevada (effective as of Jan. 1, 2018), New Jersey and West Virginia.
    • Alaska permits registration anytime within 90 days before their 18th birthday.
    • Georgia, Iowa and Missouri permit registration of those who are 17.5 (if they turn 18 before the next election).
    • Texas permits registration at 17 years and 10 months.
    • North Dakota does not require registration, but to qualify an individual must be eighteen years or older on Election Day.
    • All other states do not specifically address an age for registration and instead allow registration if they turn 18 by the next election.
  • Thirty-seven states and DC have taken steps to make voting easier for their populations. While election day is always on a Tuesday, these states allow their citizens to vote during times leading up to election day.

Background Information on Voting Rights

Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 21

  1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
  2. Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
  3. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

United States Constitution:

  • 15th Amendment: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
  • 19th Amendment: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
  • 26th Amendment: The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

United States Voting Rights Act of 1965: This law prohibits voting practices and procedures that discriminate based on race, color, or membership in a language minority group. It also requires certain jurisdictions to provide election materials in languages other than English.

Important News Articles and Resources

How To Get Involved

  • Host a High School Voter Education Week event the last two weeks of September: The California Education Code designates the last two full weeks in April and September to be High School Voter Education Weeks. This provides an opportunity for high schools and their students to partner with county elections officials to promote civic education and participation on campus and foster an environment that cultivates lifelong voters and active citizens. Check out some best practices ideas shared by County Elections Offices.
  • Be a Student Poll Worker: Starting at age 16, high school students who are U.S. citizens, maintain a 2.5 grade point average, and have permission from their parent or guardian and school can learn how elections are run while they earn money as a student poll worker on Election Day. Depending on where you live, you may be eligible for a stipend ranging from $65 to $150.

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