Strategy 2 Empowered Voters

Voting Preregistration for 16- and 17-Year-Olds

Strategy 2
Empowered Voters

Recommendation 2.4

Establish, through state legislation, the preregistration of sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds and provide educational opportunities for them to practice voting as part of the preregistration process.

Read in the Report

Low turnout among youth voters

The nation’s youngest voters consistently turn out at lower rates than older voters.

Research suggests this is because younger voters move more often and so have weaker ties to their communities. In multiple listening sessions, young Americans offered another explanation: they often don’t turn out because they don’t want to “vote wrong” or “make a mistake.”

Preregistration

Making voting a habit in young adulthood can have a long-term impact on the likelihood that someone will be a regular voter.

To encourage young voters to turn out more often and in greater numbers, state legislators should pass legislation that allows the preregistration of sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds. Anyone who preregisters should be automatically placed on the rolls when they turn eighteen.

Schools should make preregistration an essential component of their regular civic education, social studies, or history curriculum. Schools should also give students a chance to practice voting and should coordinate with local election officials to provide students with sample ballots and exposure to voting machines.

2.4 Preregistration .png

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

“Just bring a machine to every school. . . . That’s where we need to build more firsthand experience with the process, to have someone fully feel like they can be confident, and own that.”
—Lexington, KY

Champion

Generation Citizen/Vote16USA  and RepresentWomen and Faithful Democracy are committed to working to implement this recommendation in order to help reinvent American democracy for the 21st century.

Generation Citizen is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to ensure that every student in the United States receives an effective Action Civics education that provides them with the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in our democracy as informed, engaged, and active citizens. To ensure that our democracy represents the voices of all people, Generation Citizen prioritizes engaging with communities that have been historically excluded from the political process.

RepresentWomen works to advance women's representation and leadership through research and advocacy on data-driven systems strategies that enable all women to run, win, serve, and lead in appointed and elected offices in the United States.

Faithful Democracy is a multi-faith coalition of faith-based organizations and congregations who share the moral imperative of fixing our democratic systems. While our partners represent a diversity of beliefs and traditions, we unite around the common goal of creating a healthier, thriving democracy. 

See the full list of Our Common Purpose Champions.

In order to implement Recommendation 2.4 by 2026, the Commission proposes the following milestones to complete by year-end of:

2021

  • Surface existing best practices for ensuring technical and knowledge infrastructure and for pairing pre-registration with educational opportunities (currently 12 states allow pre-registration for 16-year-olds and an additional 17 allow 17-year-olds to register).

2024

  • Pre-registration legislation following best practices and including educational opportunities introduced in all 50 states

2026

  • Twenty-five states pass pre-registration legislation following best practices and including educational opportunities