January 23, 2019

Congressman Joe Neguse Introduces Federal Voter Pre-Registration Bill

Washington D.C.— Today, Congressman Joe Neguse introduced The Next Generation Votes Act, federal pre-registration legislation to allow for 16 and 17-year-olds to register to vote ahead of their 18th birthday. Across the nation, a growing number of states are taking up pre-registration to integrate young people into the democratic process early, at a time when they are more likely to begin interacting with government agencies, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, where voter registration services are offered. The Next Generation Votes Act builds on work Rep. Neguse began in Colorado to enact pre-registration and online voter registration.

“Our democracy is stronger when everyone has the opportunity to participate,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “I worked on enacting pre-registration and online voter registration across the state of Colorado. The Next Generation Votes Act takes these successful programs nationwide, ensuring that our young people are engaged and active in the political process early.”

“When young people are registered, they participate at rates comparable to older voters, and that’s why pre-registration is such an amazing solution—reaching young voters at 16 or 17 removes the single largest barrier to participation,” said Lizzy Stephan, Executive Director of New Era Colorado. “Young people across the country are the ideas, the energy and the leadership of many of today’s major social movements, and we should be doing everything we can to facilitate their participation in shaping the future of our country.”

“Voting is a foundational right and it should be as easy as possible to register,” said Lisa Gilbert, Vice President of Legislative Affairs at Public Citizen. “Pre-registering 16 and 17-year-olds to ensure that they are ready to participate is a critical step to improve civic engagement. Public Citizen applauds Representative Neguse for moving legislation to make this change.”  

“The key task before us is to usher in the biggest, boldest package of democracy reforms imaginable in this new Congress,” said Elizabeth Beavers, Associate Policy Director at Indivisible “Bills like this one, with exciting new ideas to make our government more inclusive and accessible to everyone, will help us get there.”

“As certain states and localities try to create barriers to prevent young Americans from having their voices heard and votes counted, we must ensure that young Americans can have a say in the future of our democracy,” said Aaron Scherb, Director of Legislative Affairs at Common Cause. “Ensuring that 16 and 17-year-olds can pre-register to vote is an important step to counter voter suppression tactics that some states create, and we commend Representative Neguse for introducing this common-sense bill.”

“It's time to make pre-registration a national norm,” said Rob Richie, President of FairVote Action. “We've supported and tracked it from the beginning. Experience shows that voter pre-registration is good government that efficiently increases the number of young people accurately placed on active voter rolls when they reach voting age. It has passed by lopsided margins in Republican-run states like Florida and Louisiana and in Democratic-run states like Maryland and Delaware— and delivered on its promises in all of them.”

“Time and again, Progressive Turnout Project’s more than 3 million supporters have expressed their approval for young Americans to have the right to pre-registration,” said Alex Morgan, Executive Director of Progressive Turnout Project. “Any time young people seek to engage in the political process, we should applaud their civic activism. That’s why we enthusiastically support the Next Generation Votes Act."

“The decisions made by elected officials will impact young people for the rest of their lives,” said Michael Latner, Kendall Voting Rights Fellow at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Reducing registration barriers and encouraging young people to get involved early can build a lifelong habit of voting and civic participation and keep our democracy strong. Voting registration for 16 and 17-year-olds is an essential part of the effort to modernize our elections and make sure everyone’s voice is heard.”

Currently, 13 states—including Colorado—and the District of Columbia permit pre-registration beginning at 16-years-old. Four states permit pre-registration beginning at 17-years-old, and 5 other states allow for pre-registration a few months ahead of voters 18th birthday. Just last week, the state of New York approved a series of reforms intended to make it easier to vote, including pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds starting in 2020.