By Ed Coghlan.

Californians will listen and they will act.

They just need to be convinced.

This week’s news that statewide urban usage of water has dropped 7.5 percent is a sign that you can get through to millions of Californians to do the right thing.

Now, if only we could do the same about voting.

Two men hoping to reverse the troublesome trend of declining voter turnout will square off tomorrow in Sacramento.

Candidates for California Secretary of State, Democratic State Senator Alex Padilla and Republican Pete Peterson, Executive Director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine University, will meet at high noon for what is being billed as a “conversation”, rather than a showdown. Moderator and PPIC President and CEO Mark Baldassare aims to engage the candidates in a lively discussion about their priorities and ideas to improve California elections.

California Forward is one group very interested in the Secretary of State’s race.  Here’s what we will be listening for when Padilla and Peterson exchange their views.

“CA Fwd will be listening closely to hear how the candidates will reverse the erosion in voter participation, how they will energize efforts to modernize Cal Access, and how they will ensure VoteCal implementation is timely and involves the appropriate stakeholders to make a system that will last,” said Jim Mayer, CA Fwd chief executive officer. “We also want to know how the next Secretary of State plans to make the office an easier place for business people to obtain the proper licensing needed to start and grow businesses in the state.”

If you’ve been following this race, you’re not alone. But there aren’t many of you, or should I say us. While the Secretary of State’s race is being watched by insiders, most pundits believe the lack of a “sexy” ballot this fall will again result in disappointing voter turnout.
Governor Brown is considered a lock for re-election. And despite addressing very important issues, ballot measures including the water bond and the budget reserve aren’t expected to generate mass excitement.

This “conversation” between Padilla and Peterson won’t be the last. The ACLU is sponsoring a debate between the two candidates on October 9 in Berkeley.

One area of particular emphasis this fall is the turnout of the vaunted millennial generation. Nationally, only one in four in this giant voting bloc says they’ll vote this year. Not only do these young people make up the fastest growing and more diverse segment of the California’s population, they are also the least likely to identify with a major political party. In fact, their voter participation rates are among the lowest in the state. In a recent story, CA Fwd’s Nadine Ono explains that millennials claim a lack of information for why they don’t vote.

It’ll be interesting to hear if Padilla and Peterson have any real solid ideas to boost turnout among young Californians.

The two candidates might also want to pay attention to what’s happening with Voter’s Edge. Organizations such as MapLight are stepping in to fill the void and by partnering with League of Women Voters of California and their SmartVoter initiative, they are hoping that they can help educate and inspire more millennials to vote this year.

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Originally posted at CA Fwd.