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Policy Library

Encourage Young People to Become Lifelong Voters with Pre-Registration

Voter turnout among 18 to 29-year-olds is consistently lower than that of any other age group. Allowing young people to pre-register to vote starting at 16, with their registration becoming effective once they turn 18, is an effective way for states to increase civic engagement among younger citizens. The Voter Pre-Registration Act engages young people in the democratic process, encouraging them to form voting habits that will positively impact their life-long voter participation.

The National Landscape

Passed in:

California, Colorado, Delaware, D.C., Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, West Virginia

In The News

“'The early registration and the extra convincing to allowing people to become registered is obviously a good step to enhance the opportunity,’ said [Chautauqua County Board of Elections Commissioner Brian] Abrams. ‘That’s what we are looking for when myself and Commissioner Green go to schools. We are preaching the fact that you have to do the bare minimum and get registered.'”
“'Personally, I am currently 17 and will be eligible to vote for the next election cycle… I feel that this bill would support the voter rights of the future generation and keep the interest in politics that teenagers currently hold alive.'”

Partners

  • Voting rights advocates
  • Youth and youth advocates
  • High school groups
  • Good government groups

Opposition

  • Interest groups that benefit from low voter participation
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FAQ

Who does this help?
Young Americans benefit from pre-registering before they turn 18, which makes it that much easier to cast a ballot when they become eligible to vote. Empowering young people to be more engaged in the democratic process helps us all -- when voting starts young, habits are built and young people become lifelong voters. Everyone wins when those participating in electing our government accurately reflect the population the government serves.
Why is 16 an appropriate pre-registration age?
Allowing pre-registration at 16 means that pre-registration can be tied to civic engagement and government courses in high schools. Many 16 year olds are also interacting with state offices to get their drivers’ licenses, making it an efficient time to also complete their voter registration.
Does this lower the voting age?
No. The voting age is separately set by the U.S. Constitution and state laws, and is not impacted by pre-registration.
Does this require a new registration system?
No. Pre-registration uses existing voter registration systems, and doesn’t require a new or separate system for pre-registrants.
Print

Model Policy

SECTION 1 (TITLE):
This act shall be known as the the Voter Pre-registration Act.

SECTION 2 (PURPOSE):
This act allows residents of STATE who are at least 16 years of age to pre-register to vote with registration becoming effective on his or her 18th birthday.

SECTION 3 (PROVISIONS):

(a) A resident of STATE who is at least sixteen years of age but not yet of voting age and who is otherwise qualified to register to vote may pre-register to vote, pursuant to the same process and procedures applicable to those registering to vote in STATE who are of voting age. Such pre-registrants may also update their information pursuant to the same process and procedures applicable to those updating their voter registration in STATE.

(b) Such pre-registrants shall not be registered to vote upon registration but shall be automatically registered upon reaching the age of eligibility.