Political Animal


September 15, 2012 12:20 PM A New Way To Turn Out The Youth Vote?

By Ben Jacobs

Hundreds of thousands of applicants to the Cal State University system will be sent a letter telling them that their chances of admission are dependent on the passage of a referendum on the ballot in November. According to the letter, if Proposition 30, which would raise sales taxes and income taxes on the wealthy does not pass, the schools in the Cal State system will not be able to admit as many applicants this year as anticipated. However, if Prop 30 does pass, they will be able to increase the number of students they accept.

This less than subtle appeal has already provoked outrage among anti-tax activists in the state. But what remains unclear is whether it will actually have much effect. After all, many college applicants will not be eligible to vote in November—-they’ll be 17. But there is a significant tranche of affected students who will be 18 by November 6. If this letter does help increase voter turnout among those students, it may provide an interesting blueprint to turn out young voters, always the most difficult for campaigns to reach, in the future. Regardless of whether it has an effect on turnout though, it is still bound to further politicize the funding of higher education.

Ben Jacobs is a journalist living in New York. He is a former reporter for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and contributor to the Boston Globe editorial page. Follow him on Twitter @bencjacobs.


  • Kate in CA on September 15, 2012 1:14 PM:

    That letter will do more than turn out the youth vote. It will remind the parents of school and college aged children to get out and vote too. It may be a little blatant, but it is also truthful - the defeat of Prop 30 WILL cause the Cal State university system to retrench, and that is not a hypothetical, distant probability but an immediate consequence.

  • Kevin Drum on September 15, 2012 1:21 PM:

    I doubt very much that this letter is aimed at prospective students. It's aimed at their parents.

  • Eric Wilde on September 15, 2012 1:35 PM:

    I hope the outrage is picked up by the popular television media. This effects parents of children of all ages. My twin for year olds are more than enough reason for me to vote.

  • c u n d gulag on September 15, 2012 1:35 PM:

    It's too bad the drinking age in most of this country is 21.*

    If it was 18, before you can buy your beer, you'd have to show your ID and your voter registration - and if you didn't have the latter, you could register right there in the store.

    This way, you could register Joe & Jane sixpack's while they might actually still have a sixpack - or at least no beer guts and fat asses.**

    Hey, wait, why not try it with the 21 year olds?

    *I never understood why the changed the law. If you're old enough to join the military and die for your country, why shouldn't you be able to toast it before you go? (Yeah, I know - automobile accidets).

    **That applies to both the men AND the women, btw.
    Beer is an Equal Opportunity grower of fat - I should know. :-)

  • jjm on September 15, 2012 1:50 PM:

    Good strategy! Brown knows how to do politics!

    The 'anti-tax' strategists can just go blow. What has their nasty anti-tax stand gotten us? The end of free higher education (so they lowered our taxes by about 25cents, but cost us thousands in fees--what a SCAM) dilapidated roads, and ever poorer schools. They've been pulling this fraud on us for over 30 years and it's high time to boot them from any power!

  • freudian slip on September 15, 2012 2:08 PM:

    Indeed--the student vote in general!

    I have friends struggling with college still looking forward to Pell Grants --and they all KNOW that "Myth" Romney and Paul "AYN" Ryan want to take away student aid, reduce it significantly, or increase their interest rates on loans. They are pretty cynical, too.
    Look at the price of textbooks and manuals alone.

    That "we got ours, you get yours on your own, and it's your own fault if you don't" philosophy of these Republican tea party candidates--I include Romney right along with Ryan---is very well known by collegians.
    And they can vote.

  • AbijahL on September 15, 2012 2:37 PM:

    I keep telling people to vote to just raise my damn taxes already! We make a bundle of money because previous generations of CA taxpayers paid for our fine educations. And don't tell me to go ahead and pay extra. That won't work.

  • cmdicely on September 15, 2012 3:17 PM:

    This less than subtle appeal has already provoked outrage among anti-tax activists in the state. But what remains unclear is whether it will actually have much effect. After all, many college applicants will not be eligible to vote in November—-they’ll be 17.

    Yeah, and its not like any of them are likely to have parents that are at all concerned about their prospects for college admission.

  • tom rogers on September 15, 2012 3:42 PM:

    I am heartened by seeing a reciprocal level of outrage from jjim. I really am growing short of patience with the despicable lack of funding for the most important social area of life. The country cannot survive, much less thrive if only a select few can afford higher education.

    While I hope that demographics demand that eventually the socially-conservative whites will not have the numbers that they'll need to continue bullying us from DC and the state capitols, I remain fearful that somehow the Republicans will find a way to sway the already social-conservative Latino vote, and then we'll see the same desperate attempts at grabbing more power and we'll enjoy our now established 2-tiered "justice" system, and scratch and claw for ever-shrinking returns.

  • California Resident on September 15, 2012 3:49 PM:

    I'm going to guess that a disproportionately large percentage of applicants to the Cal State system are over 18. There are the high school students who will be 18 by Nov 6. There are 20-somethings and 30-somethings that are applying to retrain (I have a 30-something friend who is frustrated to no end because he can't get into a Cal State nursing program). Most of all, there are LOTS of transfer applicants who have spent at least two years in the community college system. Hopefully, this will be effective.

  • thewarthatkilledachilles on September 15, 2012 4:39 PM:

    It is so darned difficult to get through another day without helpful snarky comments about peoples appearance , and social standing . These assists in distinguishing the plethora of acceptable smells , and what not , from the officially banned , to the mighty righty whitey ones from the lips of Saint Ronnie , and now his disciples .
    All the superior airs gained following the mighty whitey permit people to drown during rainstorms , just like their turkey idol . You know its a good product if you have to be blind not to see it !
    Saint Ronnie has left the political enmity at the correct level for plutocrat rationalistion for the pursuit of poor people making wealthy people wealthier .
    Knuckleheads every where come show your bruises at the "We got ours see you later !" conventions . There is nothing that feels as good as rubbing good clean racist noses in the litter of their own ignorance .
    .....................................Ahh , good times !

  • JR on September 15, 2012 7:46 PM:

    Not all CSU campuses are like the other... A prime example is CSU-East Bay in Hayward. Mostly a commuter school, at least a few years ago, the average student age was much higher than your average state university. Many students are adults who've returned to college.

    Add my voice, too, to the choir hoping this opens voters' eyes to the needs of education. For decades, California voters have voted down bond issues that would help schools, while supporting ones that built more prisons.

  • Brownell on September 16, 2012 9:12 AM:

    Sounds like Democrats are finally catching on. Remember 2004? The year that gay marriage suddenly became a hot issue, and a bunch of swing states suddenly found an initiative/referendum on the November ballot? Lathered up by right-wing preachers, the religious conservatives voted in droves and, gosh, Bush won. That was back when right wing social conservatives were just becoming a major force. The 2004 repugs still had to steal Ohio, but the anti-gay initiatives put them over in several other states. Now that "values voters" have a veto in anything the Republican party does, it's high time for Democrats to find opportunities for strategic initiatives at just the right time and place.

  • F. Smith on September 16, 2012 10:03 AM:

    What a great idea. People need to know the truth before they vote. As a Californian, I am supporting Prop 30.