Last week in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Luke Secosky and Julia Hazlet, who are students from Fox Chapel high school, tried to persuade legislators to give them chance to form a new habit: vote in the state's primary election.
They testified in favor of House Bill 520, if passed, would allow those who will be 18-years-old on or before the general election to vote in the preceding primary.
FairVote, I am proud to say has been a leading voice in this effort nationwide, working with legislators from Maryland to California. We believe giving these new voters the opportunity to be full participants in the democratic process is democracy at work. And will assist these new voters the opportunity to possibly form a new habit.
Penn State Professor Eric Plutzer agrees. He notes, after his research, virtually all major works on turnout have concluded that voting behavior is, in part, a gradually acquired habit. In 2004 and 2006, young voters increased their election turnout over the previous two elections. In the 2004 general election, more than 20 million 18-29 year olds voted, which is 4.3 million more than in 2000. In 2006, about 10 million casts ballots, which was 2 million more than in 2002. All signs indicate that the young adults who voted in these elections are much more likely to vote again in 2008.
In other words, millions more young adults have become voters in the past two elections. Sounds like a new habit has been formed. Studies agree. Young people who vote early continue this habit for life, and this will help ensure a strong future for our democracy.
Besides helping democracy, assisting a new habit to be formed there is another incentive passing House Bill 520 in Pennsylvania: inspiration. Young voters will inspire older voters in their life to vote always and often, reviving an old, but good habit.