Should teens be able to vote?

By Stephanie Cruz, 17, Bravo Medical Magnet
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With a movie star as governor and a President who unlawfully invades other countries, I knew that the United States needed a change in 2004. But I felt disappointed because I thought that since I didn’t turn 18 until mid-October, I wouldn’t be able to register in time for the November presidential elections. I wanted my opinion to matter. In 2000, George W. Bush beat Al Gore, in part because fewer than half of the eligible 18- to 24-year-olds voted, allowing Bush to win more states. If more teen voters had voted for Gore, he would have won.

In February I got some good news about the elections from my next-door neighbor. Even though I was 17, I could register now and vote in the November election.

For those as uninformed as I was, 17-year-olds can register to vote as long as: they will be 18 by the time of the election, they are registering to vote at least 15 days prior to the election and are U.S. citizens. You can pick up voter registration forms at any branch of the Registrar’s/County Clerk’s office (which you can find in the phone book) or online, which I think is the easiest and best way.

There are a plethora of Web sites where one can register to vote. I found that was the best for me. This site gives comprehensive help, such as a step-by-step walk through the process, and lists who will be on the ballot. The site also profiles the 2004 elections. It was great; I checked out links to great causes like the Los Angeles County Community Human Relations Campaign, an effort to end discrimination, hate crimes and prejudice.

Registering was simple. All I did was type in my e-mail address and name. The Web site then asked me to specify my state, and then it led me through the specific steps for registering in California. After that I typed in my address, my birth date, California ID number (you can use your driver’s license number) and choice of party (which you can leave blank). The California ID number is located toward the middle of the ID and it is clearly stated in red lettering. Without proper California identification I would not have been able to register.

At the end, the site instructed me to print my voter registration application. I had to review it, fill in some extra information like telephone number, and then sign and date at the bottom. The Web site gives you the address where to send it (the Secretary of State in Sacramento). The print-out also included my registration papers and simple instructions on how to vote, like what identification to present on voting day.

The best thing about registering on-line is that you don’t deal with the long lines at the DMV, the rude workers behind the counters and the hours of waiting just to fill out simple information. All it costs is the 37-cent postage to send the application. If I move within California I’ll have to notify the registrar and if I move to another state I’ll go through the process again, but really it isn’t that bad.

After registering I felt great that I had taken my first steps to participating in government. I mean, I’ve always kept myself informed with bills and different proposals but I couldn’t do anything about them. Now I can vote. There are many issues that will be on the ballot this coming November and I want to make sure that my voice and the voices of other teenagers are heard. There is a growing number of teenagers with thoughts, ideas and views that are as educated as that of any 35-year-old’s. We should try our best to make them heard.


Who can register to vote?

To register to vote,
a person must:
• Be a citizen of the United States
• Be a resident of California
• Be at least 18 years of age as of the day of the election
• Not be in prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony
• Not be deemed by an appropriate court to be mentally incompetent

How do I register to vote?
You must complete a voter registration form, which can be obtained by:
• calling the local county clerk’s office and requesting a form
• filling out a voter registration form online (a pre-typed registration form will then be mailed to you, which you must sign and mail back.)
• calling the toll-free voter registration hotline at 1-800-345-VOTE (8683) and
requesting a form

What is the deadline to register to vote?

15 days before the election.