Register to Vote


Thursday Oct. 1
Women’s City Club, Pasadena

Dorothy Keane’s inspiring report on LWV’s voter registration efforts kicked off the October 1 League Day’s theme of voter registration. Phillip Verbera, of the County Registrar of Voters Office, discussed how his office has been working to register and engage voters; and Mynor Godoy, of the United Way, described how he trained high schoolers to motivate and register their fellow students.

The communities in our League have good voter registration numbers and had above average turnout in the 2012 elections, Verbera reported. His easy-to-read graphic was made possible by a new statewide online voter database, which has greatly improved the state’s and counties’ ability to keep the voter rolls up-to-date. If people move, they can go online and change their addresses, and they will be automatically placed on the rolls of the new precinct and removed from the old precinct.

The database also yields accurate information on the number of eligible voters who are registered and how many of those turn out for elections. The following is a list of our communities’ numbers in the 2012 November election:

Alhambra: 67 percent registered, 64 percent turnout
Altadena: 93 percent registered, 77 percent turnout
La Cañada: 104 percent registered, 78 percent turnout
Monrovia: 83 percent registered, 73 percent turnout
Monterey Park: 68 percent registered, 61 percent turnout
Pasadena: 84 percent registered, 73 percent turnout
San Gabriel: 69 percent registered, 63 percent turnout
San Marino: 93 percent registered, 71 percent turnout
Sierra Madre: 97 percent registered, 80 percent turnout
South Pasadena: 92 percent registered, 77 percent voted

The comparatively low registration rates in Alhambra and Monterey Park may be due to demographics. Having data like that available will help LWV and other organizations target registration and voter turnout campaigns. The county Registrar of Voters Office works closely with LWV Los Angeles County and other agencies to get voters registered. We have a huge population and the office’s human resources are limited, so working with other organizations, such as LWV and United Way, is essential.

Godoy works for the education section of United Way. With help from Verbera, he led an effort to get more minority youth registered and enthusiastic about an election. He described how student leaders from several LAUSD high schools in United Way’s Student Leadership Program decided to campaign to increase participation in last year’s election to fill vacant LAUSD board seats.

The students publicized the significance of a strong voter turnout for both the general election and the run-off last May. They were able to use the low turnout numbers in previous elections to persuade potential voters that their vote indeed counts, by showing them how an election can be decided by just a few votes. They worked to register their peers, parents, and community groups, and helped turn out the vote, even organizing “walk to the polls.” They registered 3,000 students across LAUSD for the school board elections in 2014, largely through in-class presentations and table events at schools. This was all accomplished in just about six weeks.

This student-led campaign engaged minority youth from low voter areas. The League may adopt this approach in the future. Some of Verbera’s information:

• Sixteen year-olds can register to vote. They become “pending” voters and are automatically moved to “active” voter status on their eighteenth birthdays.
• Vote-by-mail has not increased voter participation. People who probably would have voted in person are the people who are using the vote-by-mail system.
• Voting on line is being developed, but this system will not really be used to vote. It will print out a ballot that a person can fill in, then mail it or take it to a polling place. It is thought this might appeal to young people accustomed to getting information online.
• The Registrar of Voters is developing a map that can show the level of voter registration block by block.

—Marty Giffen