Voting advocate Sean Jacobson has grown accustomed to hearing about the many barriers that young adults face in becoming politically engaged. As an organizer with the youth mobilization nonprofit the Washington Bus, Jacobson says that many of the students he meets during registration drives on college campuses are unsure if they’re registered to vote. Students often move from their hometowns to another jurisdiction for school and fail to update their registrations. Frequent mobility is just one challenge that prevents youth from turning out to vote. A lack of transportation and unfamiliarity with the issues can also preclude young adults from civic engagement.
“For young people, I think … there’s just not as many opportunities for them to engage in our political system because there are barriers to voting,” Jacobson told Seattle Weekly on Tuesday. Washington Bus seeks to address that by hosting phone drives to politically engage youth, holding classroom presentations in high schools, and testifying on behalf of election reform in Olympia. Recently, the organization has narrowed its focus on a package of election reform measures introduced into the state Legislature that aim at increasing voter registration. One such measure is House Bill 2595, which would automatically register U.S. citizens in Washington state who are already eligible to vote.
Introduced last week, the automatic voter registration measure would register U.S. citizens to vote when they apply for or renew an enhanced driver’s license if they are 18 years old or older. “It’s largely turning things from an opt-in to an opt-out system,” said the bill’s sponsor, Democratic State Representative Zack Hudgins. Social service agencies that collect personal information—such as the Washington Health Benefit Exchange and the Department of Social and Health Services—would also automatically register its clients. “We want to increase the number of people that are registering to vote. We want to break down the hurdles and the barriers of registration,” Hudgins said.