The youth electorate was greatly boosted by online voter registration. This altered the voter landscape, with better registration rates for young people and drastically different party affiliations.
Earlier this year and right before the presidential elections, California launched an online registration system for voters. This measure was intended to increase the number of voters, and particularly, encourage young people to vote. UC Davis released a study on the impact of this online registration system. According to their data, online voter registration helped thousands of Californians to get ready for the election, especially among youth. 2012 California general voter registration grew 2.1 percent from 2008 to 76.7 percent of all eligible voters, and youth registration grew 13.9 percent over the same period. Younger voters comprised 30 percent of all online registrants, and are driving the decline in the standard Democrat/Republican binary with less party preference and more other party affiliation.
Youth register at highest levels of non-party or non-major party affiliation
Voter registration for the Presidential Election of November 2012 in California was 43.5 percent Democratic and 29.6 percent Republican. Surveying CA voter registration by age group and party affiliation puts into spotlight the decline in the two majority parties that has been underway for the last 20 years. The younger the age group, the more diverse the party affiliation, especially among those under 45. Additionally, the younger age groups register as No Party Preference (NPP). Registered voters aged 18-24 have less than 40 percent Democrats, just over 20 percent Republicans, and nearly 30 percent NPP. To contrast this, the trends directly reverse for those over 75: Democrats are nearly 50 percent of this group, nearly 40 percent are Republicans, and NPPs are about 10 percent. The youngest age group registered as Other Party at about twice the rate as the general registered population.
Improved registration rates reflect importance of online registration for youth
In the last ten years, growth of the youth registered electorate has increased 60 percent. With hundreds of thousands more young voters in California, the registration gap between voters under 24 and the general population is narrowing. Online registration will be a preferred method for youth, and could be an important strategy to tackle the discrepancy of voter registration between younger citizens and the general population. The political evolution of the state also will be informed by the variation within CA’s youth electorate - while rates of registered youth vary from county to county, youth of color still skew more Democratic, yet are still underrepresented compared to the general population.