Young voter registrations surge in LA County, but will they show up to vote?

FILE: A voter shows the
FILE: A voter shows the "I Voted" sticker. A surge in young people registering in Los Angeles County could benefit presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Photo by jamelah e. via Flickr Creative Commons

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Tracking a trend seen statewide, Los Angeles County numbers show a whopping 63 percent of all new registered voters since January have been young people.

There's been a surge in voter registration overall, but the numbers of signups among those 18 to 29-year-olds have been particularly notable.

"It really is a year that’s unlike any that we’ve seen in recent times," said Dean Logan, L.A. County’s Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. "This is the first presidential cycle that we have seen this significant of an increase in registration activity this early in the registration season."

He said the increase in local voter registrations for 18 to 29-year-olds mirrors what is occurring across California.

In L.A. County, young voter registrations are up for all political parties, but Democrats are seeing the biggest gains in the age group. Last month, about 31,000 18-29 year olds registered to vote. The Democratic Party saw an increase of 17,451 from those numbers and the Republican Party gained 2,354 young members.

This trend could mean strong results in California for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who has been drawing large crowds of young people.

But Logan cautions against counting votes too soon. He said past elections have shown that even when young people register to vote, they don’t always follow through by casting ballots.

"Sadly, the statistics on registration translating into participation in the 18 to 29-year-old demographics are pretty dim," he said.

Logan said in 2008, there was a surge in young voter registration that didn’t translate into a similar increase in voter turnout. 

The nonpartisan research organization Public Policy Institute of California issued a report in March warning that the state's electorate doesn't represent its population, including in its age demographics. 

For the most part, California voters tend to be older, white, affluent and college-educated while non-voters tend to be younger, Latino, and renters with less college education.

The divide between voters and non-voters also is reflected in their attitudes on issues like government spending. Those differences can have a major impact in a state where the electorate gets to approve or reject policies through ballot measures, the report noted.

The deadline to register to vote is May 23.