A New Way To Turn Out The Youth Vote?

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.

Support the Washington Monthly and get a FREE subscription

Ben Jacobs

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.