Busy College Students May Get Convenient Ballot Drop-Offs

Assembly Democrats and Republicans sparred over whether college students at three state universities and colleges should be given vote-by-mail drop-off locations.

During a lengthy floor session on August 23 – the first of the last seven working days of the 2010 legislative year – the measure on ballot drop-offs for college students generated some of the most heat.

Democrats argued the bill encouraged more turnout by young voters and strengthened the Democratic process.

“Data shows the younger the person is when they begin voting… the high(er) likelihood they will stay a voter all their adult life,” said Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, a Berkeley Democrat.

Republicans questioned the idea saying students could easily obtain an absentee ballot like other voters and, if too lazy to do so, wouldn’t be incentivized by a ballot drop-off on campus.

“We all deal with stress, the pressures of daily life, said Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, a Stockton Republican. “Either we do an absentee ballot or go to the polls. “This is the wrong message to send colleges kids about responsibility.”

The bill, SB 970 by Sen. Ellen Corbett, a San Leandro Democrat, allows vote-by-mail drop-offs to be established at one University of California campus with at least 20,000 students, one California State University campus with at least 13,000 students and a community college with at least 10,000 students.

The drop-off sites would be in place for at least one election between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2016.

Many students wouldn’t enjoy the convenience of the drop-ff locations.

The University of California is the smallest of the higher education systems with 191,000 students at 10 campuses.

California State University has 23 campuses with 417,00 students while the community colleges have 112 campuses and 2.9 million students.

Republicans also questioned some of the reasons given by the students for needing the convenience of a ballot drop-off.

“They’ll never be less busy than they are in college. Gimme a break,” said Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, a Laguna Niguel Republican.

“They’re too busy between finals and the homework that they have to study for?” said Assemblyman Anthony Adams, a Hesperia Republican. “Seriously this who you want voting?”

GOP Assemblyman Joel Anderson of La Mesa wondered if the civics classes offered were so poor that students couldn’t figure out how to vote.

Part of the opposition by GOP lawmakers to making it easier for young voters to cast ballot is that younger voters tend to be more likely to support Democrats.

The Assembly analysis of the bill notes that local elections officials already have the power to establish ballot drop-off locations and locate polling places on college and university campuses.

Corbett’s measure was returned to the Senate on a 43 to 25 vote. It faces one more vote there before being sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who has no public position on the bill.

Sent to the governor were two measures affecting veterans. One, AB 1088 by GOP Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher of San Diego, would create a voluntary tax check-off to benefit veterans homes. The check-off wouldn’t appear on state tax forms until one of the existing 15 expires.

It was approved on a 57 to 0 vote.

A second bill – AB 1757 by Assemblyman Bill Monning, a Santa Cruz Democrat, authorizes the creation of a veterans cemetery at what was formerly Fort Ord in Monterey County.

Assemblyman Paul Cook, a Yucaipa republican and U.S. Marine Corps colonel, thanked his two colleagues for giving him a place he could retire and a burial site.


August 23 is the 54th day of the new fiscal year for which no budget has been enacted. The Legislature is required by the constitution to send the governor a spending plan by June 15, two weeks before the start of the fiscal year.



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