Since his 2012 election to the Washington state legislature, Rep. Steve Bergquist had been trying to persuade his colleagues to support a bill allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote — and requiring schools to help get them on the rolls, a move the Democratic lawmaker was sure would improve voter turnout among young people when they turned 18. There was opposition and concern: Was it an unfair burden on schools? Did it open the registration and voting process up to fraud? And wasn’t it already pretty easy to register in Washington, which has a “motor voter” law, as well as registration by mail and online? So Bergquist used his experience as a former high school social studies teacher to his advantage.
He found a largely ignored, 1923 law on the books, a measure that established Temperance and Good Citizenship Day, to be observed by all public schools annually on Jan. 16 (or a school day close to that date). It was a lot easier to tweak an existing law than to get colleagues to approve a new one. So Bergquist proposed new language that would require schools to offer voter pre-registration for eligible teens on that day. He also streamlined the process to make sure schools would follow through: instead of having the civics lesson trickle down to teachers from state, local, district and school administration officials, the new law gives directives straight to social studies teachers’ email inboxes.
The new language was passed and signed into law in March, helping Bergquist fulfil a goal he had as a high school teacher: to get more young people involved in a political process that affects everything from their looming college debt to their job prospects.
… Washington is among at least a dozen states seeking to expand voter engagement and turnout by allowing young residents to pre-register to vote or allowing them to vote in primary or general elections before they reach the federal minimum age of 18. Utahrecently changed its law to allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries, as long as the voters will be 18 by the time of the general election. Maine and Nevada made the change to be effective Jan. 1 of this year. About a third of states already permit 17-year-olds to vote in primaries as long as they turn 18 by Election Day.
Full Article: States Want Voters to Start Young | Best States | US News.