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Teen voters reject two-party system

A senior writes,
A senior writes, "I'm dissatisfied with my government," after registering to vote at North Hollywood High School on Thursday, April 30, 2015.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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Teens often get a bad rap for seeming pretty unenthusiastic, especially about things adults think they should do. The latest voter registration numbers are turning that stereotype of the apathetic adolescent on its head.

Since California started allowing kids under the age of 18 to register to vote, a lot of teens have jumped at the opportunity. About 100,0000 have pre-registered -- 10,000 of them in the last month alone. 

"Certainly since the Parkland shooting and the movement that has developed amongst teens and young people... there's an excitement around young people feeling that they have a voice, that they need to be heard," said Mindy Romero, Director of the California Civic Engagement Project with the University of California at Davis." We see a lot of young people talking about the importance of voting and wanting to translate that to the next election."

Voters in the 18-to-24 age bracket have historically showed low voter turnout, but getting young people registered early on may disrupt that trend. 

More youths pre-registered as Democrats than Republicans but even more registered as "No Party Preference." Romero said voters of varying ages are choosing not to align themselves with a political party. This year's pre-registration data, she said, "reflects a larger trend but just more prominent in young people." 

By and large, voters are feeling the urge to engage civically but feel alienated by the party process. Or they simply don't feel like either of the two dominant political parties represents their views. 

For new voters, it could be a little like electoral training wheels while they get the knack of the political process. "They're just dissatisfied with the party process, and for young people in particular, they don't know how that connects for them," Romero said. "Maybe keeping their independence may be a plus for them while they figure out how they fit into a party."