Pre-registration for Young Voters
How Pre-registration Works
Pre-registration is an election procedure that allows individuals younger than 18 years of age to register to vote, so they are eligible to cast a ballot when they reach 18, the voting age in all states. The central goal of pre-registration is to encourage voting among young people, the group that consistently has the lowest turnout rates. In the past decade or so, pre-registration has steadily emerged as an election reform across the U.S. A total of 20 states and the District of Columbia have enacted pre-registration laws.
Pre-registration states vary in terms of their registration age limits. Seven states allow for 16-year-olds to pre-register, and eight states allow 17-year-olds to pre-register. The remaining five pre-registration states do not establish a specific pre-registration age limit. Instead, these states allow youth to register to vote before the age of 18, provided that they will be of voting age by the time of the next general election.
Evidence that pre-registration encourages youth turnout, according to a 2010 case study of Hawaii and Florida.
Permits registration for first-time youth voters at already-established points of contact, such as in civics classes or at motor vehicle bureaus.
Has potential to increase youth engagement in state/local elections.
Since pre-registered youth may move between pre-registration and their first chance to vote, these registrations may no longer be accurate and valid.
Costs may be a a factor; iimplementation in Colorado was estimated at $572,112 in 2013. Additionally, the cost of returned mailings to this mobile population can be significant.
Pre-registration targets one part of the population only.
Existing State Statutes for Pre-Registration
In all of the states listed below with the exception of Hawaii and Rhode Island, young people may register sometime before they reach the voting age of 18, provided that they will turn 18 by the next general election. In Hawaii and Rhode Island, it is not necessary that they turn 18 by the next general election.
Alaska – within 90 days preceding 18th birthday (AS §15.07.040)
California – 17 year-olds may pre-register (CA Elec. Code §2102(d)) (NOTE: implementation is expected in 2016)
Colorado – 16 and 17-year-olds may pre-register (Colo. HB 1135, 2013)
District of Columbia – 16 and 17-year-olds may pre-register (D.C. Code § 1-1001.07(3))
Delaware – 16 and 17-year-olds may pre-register (Del. Code Ann. Tit.15, §1701(b))
Florida – 16 and 17-year-olds may pre-register (Fla. Stat. § 97.041)
Georgia – 17.5 year olds may pre-register (Ga. Code Ann. § 21-2-216(c))
Hawaii – 16 year-olds may pre-register, and 17 year-olds may register but not vote (HRS §11-12)
Iowa – 17.5 years (Iowa Code Election Laws §48A.5(2)(c))
Kansas – Registrants must state that they will be 18 by the next general election (KRS §25-2306)
Louisiana – 17 year-olds may pre-register (L.R.S.§101 A (2))
Maine– 17 year-olds may pre-register (21- M.R.S.A. §155)
Maryland – 16 year-olds may pre-register (MD Elec. Law §3-102)
Minnesota – any person who will be an eligible voter at the time of the next election may register (Minn. Stat. §201.061)
Missouri – 17.5 year olds may pre-register (Mo. Rev. Stat §115.133)
Nebraska – 17 year-olds may pre-register(Neb. Rev. Stat §32-110)
Nevada – any person who will be an eligible voter at the time of the next election may register (NRS 293.485)
North Carolina – 16 and 17-year-olds may pre-register (N.C. Gen. Stat §163-82.1)
Oregon – 17-year-olds may register but they are not allowed to vote in any election until turning 18 (ORS §247.016)
Rhode Island – 17-year-olds may register but not vote; 16 year-olds may pre-register (RI Gen. Laws §17-9.1-33)
Texas – Registration is open to those who are 17 years and 10 months old (Tex El. Code Ann § 13.001)
West Virginia – 17 year-olds may pre-register (W. Va. Code §3-2-2)
Wyoming – any person who will be 18 on the date of the general election (Wyo. Stat. §22-3-102)
NOTE: Many states do not specifically refer to 16- and 17-year-olds but do allow people to register prior to their 18th birthday, often with a proviso that they be 18 by the next general election. Wyoming's statutory language (Wyo. Stat. §22-3-102) is typical: "A person may register to vote...He will be at least eighteen (18) years of age on the day of the next general election provided he shall not be permitted to vote until he has attained the age of eighteen (18)." Indiana (3-7-13-1), New Jersey (N.J. Rev. Stat. §19:31-5) and New Mexico (Section 1-4-2 NMSA 1978) have similar provisions.
In 2013, legislation either amending or eliminating existing pre-registration statutes or introducing new pre-registration practices have been introduced in 14 states in 2013, and enacted in one.
Arizona (AZ S 1033) — Failed
California (CA S 113) -— Pending
Colorado (CO H 1135) -— Enacted
Connecticut (CT H 5902) -— Failed
Hawaii (HI HR 186 & HI HCR 231) — Pending/Carryover
Iowa (IA H 520/ IA SSB 1018) — Pending /Carryover
Massachusetts (MA S 316/ MA H 614/ MA H 617) — Pending
Michigan (MI S 260) — Pending
Nebraska (NE L 127) — Pending/ Carryover
New Jersey (NJ S 526/ NJ A 1126) — Pending
New York (NY A 187/ NY A 306/ NY S 619/ NY S 1992/ NY A 2042/ NY A 2107/ NY S 2852) — Pending
North Carolina* (HB 589) — On governor’s desk
Ohio (OH S 110) — Pending
Oregon (OR H 2988) — Failed
Texas (TX S 1507) — Failed
Washington (WA H 1279/ WA S 5270) — Pending/Carryover
*North Carolina’s bill would eliminate pre-registration