June 18, 2020
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Check out our full pre-registration action toolkit here.

Why Pre-Registration Is Huge for Young Voters

Millennials and Generation Z will represent nearly 40% of the eligible electorate for the 2020 elections, and are poised to be a major factor in determining the election results. Young people have been taking action on the issues they care most about by advocating, organizing, voting, and even running for public office. But the first step in guiding young people towards becoming life-long voters is ensuring that they are registered to vote. Unfortunately, many young people’s first experiences with the voting process can be frustrating and disheartening because of the arbitrary deadlines and confusing requirements that they encounter during the registration process and at the ballot box. Pre-registration is one of the most successful and helpful reforms that can directly improve  young people’s voter registration experience. 

Preregistration is an election procedure that allows individuals younger than 18 to register to vote, so they are eligible to cast a ballot when they reach 18 (which is the voting age for all state and federal elections). The COVID-19 health pandemic and the recently reinvigorated national conversation about systemic racism is impacting everyone, and we are seeing young people’s leadership on full display in cities across the country. Now, more than ever, it is important that young people also have an opportunity to make their voices heard through our democracy’s voting process.

What is pre-registration?

Pre-registration allows eligible citizens to pre-register to vote before their 18th birthday. This means that once they turn 18 they are automatically registered to vote. The policy gives young people the opportunity to register to vote when it is convenient for them—rather than forcing them to complete this critical action during the narrow period of time between their 18th birthday and their state’s registration deadline. 

As of March 2020, these states have pre-registration beginning at 16 years old:

  • California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, and Washington.

Why is pre-registration crucial for young people?

Pre-registration is one of the most effective ways to engage young people in the electoral process before they cast their first ballot. Below are some reasons for advocating for pre-registration:

  1. Once a 16- or 17-year-old has pre-registered they no longer have to go through the hassle of registering when they turn 18. They don’t have to worry about missing a registration deadline, which is different in every state, especially if their window between their 18th birthday and Election Day is narrow.
  2. Once their voter registration is activated at 18, they are more likely to receive resources and information on political races and voting, making them better prepared and informed for Election Day.

Top 5 ways you can get involved and advocate for pre-registration!

  1. Make sure you and your friends are registered or pre-registered to vote at genprogress.org/vote.
  2. If your state doesn’t have pre-registration yet, email and/or call your state legislator to demand they introduce, support, and pass pre-registration legislation. 
  3. Share your pre-registration story online with our sample social posts.
  4. Submit your pre-registration story to the Our Vote Our Voice story collection form.
  5. Write an op-ed for your local paper to encourage your peers to pre-register, or to advocate for pre-registration legislation—we’ve already given you an outline here.

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