Voices & Choices

How to get young people to vote? Let them pre-register

How to get young people to vote? Let them pre-register

Blue and pink weren’t the only waves to sweep the 2018 midterm elections.

Participation among young voters also surged to the highest level in a midterm election in the last quarter century, with a 31 percent turnout among the under-30 demographic, according to the Center for Information and Civil Learning and Engagement.

Yet participation among young voters still lags far behind that of their older peers, with just over half of 18 to 24-year-olds registered to vote as of the 2016 presidential election, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

But improving turnout among millennials and the newly of voting age members of Generation Z is gaining traction as part of the larger movement around electoral reforms.

U.S. Rep Joe Neguse, of Colorado, introduced legislation this week that would let 16 and 17-year-old pre-register to vote. The Next Generation Votes Act seeks to capitalize on the correlation between voter pre-registration and increased turnout among young voters.

As FairVote Action President Rob Richie said in a press release from Neguse’s office announcing the bill,

“Experience shows that voter pre-registration is good government that efficiently increases the number of young people accurately placed on active voter rolls when they reach voting age. It has passed by lopsided margins in Republican-run states like Florida and Louisiana and in Democratic-run states like Maryland and Delaware— and delivered on its promises in all of them.”

Florida voters who pre-registered were 4.7 percent more likely to cast ballots in the 2008 election, according to a 2009 study. And California has pre-registered over 100,000 voters since launching its program in 2016.

Not only has pre-registration proven an effective program to encouraging participation among voters once they become of age, it costs little or nothing for states to provide.

A total of 20 states and the District in allowing voters to pre-register ahead of turning 18, and New York will soon join them under reform bills passed this month to provide pre-registration starting in 2020.

Learn more about voter pre-registration and FairVote’s history of support here.


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