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Bill promotes teen voter registration

Tonya Jameson // Published May 11, 2009 in The Charlotte Observer
 Rep. Tricia Cotham, a former teacher, wants to make it easier for teens to register to vote.

She is co-sponsoring a bill that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote and encourage high schools to teach more about voting.

“It gives one more tool for these young people to be involved to understand the importance of participating in their democracy,” said Cotham, D-Mecklenburg.

Cotham taught civics class and said teachers like opportunities to integrate real-world experiences with course material. Preregistration would be a tangible experience for the students, and could increase voter turnout. “Information and opportunity is the key to participation,” Cotham said.

Cotham and Rep. Justin Burr, R-Montgomery, the two youngest members of the General Assembly, co-sponsored the bill. It unanimously passed the Election Law and Campaign Finance Reform committee last week and will be presented in the House Education Committee as early as Tuesday, she said.

Along with allowing students to preregister, the bill encourages information about voter registration and preregistration be taught in the social studies curriculum.

In North Carolina, a 17-year-old can vote in a primary if that person will be 18 by the general election. By preregistering, teens will already be on record with the State Board of Election and their permanent registration could be expedited, Cotham said of her bill.