After two presidential election cycles where we saw
steady increases in youth voter participation, 2008 was
year that young voters really roar. The primary season saw
increases in youth
voter participation outstrip the large increases in general
with turnout tripling or even quadrupling among young people in some
In the general election youth voted at a rate not seen since 1992 and have increased their turnout 11 points since 2000. Importantly, people under 30 constitute the most progressive
memory. Therefore, encouraging them to become politically
active is a
major part of advancing progressive reform.
Voter Pre-registration: Allowing young people to pre-registar at 16 is a very easy but important reform that three states (Hawaii, Florida, and North Carolina) have implemented. This facilitates youth registration at two highly convenient
locations — in school and at the motor vehicles department when
applying for a driver's license. Currently, the majority of voters
register when conducting business at motor vehicle departments, and
this change will extend that option to younger people as well. And in
doing so it will link in young people's minds the rite of passage of
getting a driver's license with that of registering to vote. Additionally, allowing youth to register increases the salience of civic education as students can register then, not one or two years in the future. With no cost, this is an easy way to bring more young peole into the election process.
17-year-old primary voting:
that states and political parties can respond to and further
growing desire among young people to be engaged citizens is allowing
17-year-olds who will be 18 by the general election to vote in the
There are currently 14 states that allow these voters to participate in
primaries. Additionally, they can participate in the Democratic primary
Alaska, Kansas, North Dakota, and Washington.
It is important to note that passing legislation is only one
way to open up these primaries to 17-year-olds. Under the federal
political parties have the right to make their own rules that define
participate in their primaries. As is evidenced by the four states
where one of
the major parties has allowed this participation and the other has not,
can make this change without the input or blessing of the legislature.
even where the state constitution puts an age limit of 18 on voters,
constitutional right of the parties supersedes and no
amendment is required for the parties to change their primary
School Based Registration: Designating schools
as voter registration agencies under NVRA or allowing guidance
distribute and collect registrations is a convenient way to register
people. Some states are now contemplating whether to include
as a requirement for high school graduation. If this is
advance voter registration at age 16, and the requirement was also
students dropping out, we would be getting close to universal
through the schools.
In Louisiana, the House and Senate unanimously passed HB
990, which allows voter registration at offices of public
guidance counselors. And the California Legislature passed AB
183, which would make voter registration a requirement for
the bill was vetoed by the governor.
Increasingly states are enacting legislation, from same-day registration to longer polling hours, that may make voting easier, especially for young people. This fact sheet presents information about the various types of state voting laws as well as their estimated effects on youth turnout.