Youth Preregistration Fact Sheet
Boosting More Efficient Registration and Education Programs
FACTS ABOUT YOUTH PREREGISTRATION:
A significant disparity exists between the percentage of young people registered to vote and the percentage of the general population.
- 71% of eligible voters are registered; 59% of eligible voters age 18-24 are registered
A uniform voter registration age often does not exist.
- In some states, all 17-year-olds and some 16-year-olds can register. In other states, some 17-year-olds and no 16-year-olds can register. In many states it changes year to year based on the date of the next election.
- The lack of uniformity creates confusion and makes it harder to run effective voter registration and education programs in schools and at the Division of Motor Vehicles.
A uniform advance-registration age does not require a new registration database system.
- In many states, advance-registered voters already are inputted into the voter registration database as “pending.” A State’s Board of Elections transfers “pending” voters to “active” status when they become eligible to vote.
Lowering the advance-registration age does NOT change the voting age.
- The 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution sets the voting age at 18-years-old.
- Local and state jurisdictions can lower the voting age if they so choose, but it is a separate question from voter registration.
Why is 16 years old a sensible age for advance-registration?
- When applying for a driver’s license, a 16-year-old can register to vote at the DMV.
- 16-years-old is the compulsory school attendance age in most states.
- Many states already allow 16-year-olds to register during parts of the election cycle.
Why aren’t the current registration programs in high schools good enough?
- Registration drives typically do not focus on anyone other than seniors.
- Registration drives have much higher registration rates in presidential election years.
- No statutory requirement for voter registration in schools exists.
- A standardized voting curriculum would encourage students to learn about the mechanics of participation (i.e. requesting absentee ballots).
Does registering to vote at a younger age have long-term benefits?
- Some states have already recognized the importance of early participation by allowing 17-year-olds to serve as full-time election judges.
- Registration boosts turnout: in 2008, 83% of registered 18-24-year-olds voted.
- Academic studies and electoral analyses show that voting behavior is habit-forming. If you vote, you will likely keep voting. If you don’t vote, you probably won’t start.
Download the Minimum Voter Registration and Primary Voting Age Spreadsheet (last updated May 2011)
Source: US Census.gov, available at http://tinyurl.com/2bqhh7p