It’s a refrain commonly heard in modern elections—“young people don’t vote.” And the truth of the matter is that youths are not voting at the same rates as their elders. In 2014, turnout for 18 to 29-year-olds reached record lows of 16 percent, according to the U.S. Elections Project. That’s compared to turnout for older age brackets consistently above 30 percent (youth hit record high turnout in 2008 of 48 percent). This begs the question: What can states do to engage young people in the electoral process? No silver bullet exists, but states have taken a variety of bipartisan steps to reach out to their younger residents. We’ll consider whether these legislative options really make a difference: Preregistration for youth, Allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primaries, Lowering the voting age. Preregistration for 16-and-17-year olds has gained traction recently. Preregistration involves permitting those under the age of 18 to register to vote. Typically, those youth are placed into a pending status in the voter registration database and then changed to active status when they turn 18. This definition, however, isn’t consistent across every state and the way states treat these voters varies greatly.
Currently California, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Rhode Island and Utah allow someone as young as 16-years old to preregister to vote. Utah passed its preregistration law last year and it was well received. Weber County Clerk/Auditor Ricky Hatch said it was a “simple tweak” to begin preregistering 16-year-olds and that “schools enjoyed being able to engage more students at an earlier age.” Beginning in August 2016, Massachusetts will also allow someone as young as 16 to preregister to vote.
Some states limit the age for preregistration specifically to 17-year-olds: Maine, Nebraska, New Jersey (the newest member of the group), Oregon, and West Virginia. Other states specify different ages at which registration can begin: Alaska (90 days preceding 18th birthday), Georgia (17.5-years-old), Iowa (17.5-years-old), Missouri (17.5-years-old) and Texas (17 years and 10 months old).
Even more states allow actual registration without a specific age if an individual will turn 18 by either the next general election (Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico and Wyoming) or just the next election of any kind (Minnesota and Nevada). So far in 2016, 25 bills in 12 states have been introduced that look to establish some kind of preregistration for youth. Congressman Don Beyer (D-Va.) has introduced the Preregistration for Voters Everywhere (PROVE) Act to require preregistration nationwide.
Full Article: The Canvass | March 2016.