Preregistration of Youth Voters


Preregistration of young voters has been introduced in a number of states in America as one of the strategies to get more people to vote during the Election Day. The reason for this is that since the 1970s, fewer and fewer youths between the ages of 16 and 29 have been voting because they have not yet been registered as voters. Over time, researchers have studied the many benefits of preregistration and reasons for the low numbers of youth turnout on Election Day. There are also hypotheses that many youths prefer to vote during the presidential elections than during the other elections. The objective of the following literature review is to find out the content of such research and find out whether there has been any success in the preregistration of youth. The research problem being addressed is the low turnout of youth voters on Elections Day.


A number of states in America have given youth who will reach the voting age of 18 a chance to register for voting if their birthday is before the next election. Preregistration allows them to register for voting even if their birthday is not on or before the next elections. Some of the nine states that have implemented laws to do with preregistration include Hawaii, Louisiana, Delaware, Florida, Colorado, Maine, Oregon, Rhode Island and Maryland. Of the above states, youths are allowed to preregister for voting at the age of 16 in Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Colorado, and Washington DC (Sayre, 2015). Louisiana, Oregon, and Maine allow youth from seventeen years to preregister for voting. The state of California already has the law in place to allow seventeen-year-old youth to preregister. However, the law is not yet implemented because the states do not have a voter registration database that is acquiescent with the Help America Vote Act of 2002. North Carolina revoked its law on voter preregistration because of voter overpowering whereby they were expected to have a photo ID and not allowed to have same day registration. A new law to take effect in 2015 has been passed in Louisiana, lowering the age of voter preregistration to 16 years. The following literature review gives background information about preregistration systems in different states of the United States of America. The review gives the following research question a good foundation for research: Has the preregistration of voters in the US increased young voter turnout? This is a justified research, as the findings of the research will help identify strategies that will increase the youth turnout during Election Day. The stakeholders for this include government officials and non-governmental organizations with the objective of encouraging youth voter turnout in America. Thus, the voter turnout among the American youths is a critical issue of concern that all stakeholders must address with a deeper insights. Indeed, the issue of whether preregistration would lead to higher voter turnout among youths will be subjected to various research and tests in this essay. The viability of preregistration will be subject to the success factors collected and analyzed in this research.

Hypotheses to be tested

  1. Alternative hypothesis: Preregistration of voters in the US has increased the young voter turnout
  2. Null hypothesis: Preregistration of voters in the US has not increased the youth voter turnout

Barriers to voting among the youth

As of the 2012 elections, the turnout of voters under thirty years was 8% lower than the rate of voters for all America. Research shows that this gap is even wider when there are non-presidential elections. Research shows that the interest in elections among the youth increases as the Election Day nears (Neiheisel & Burden, 2012). Unlike many older voters who were registered in previous elections do not need to make second registrations, most of the youth voters of America are voting for the first time. These voters rarely know the importance of registration just before the day of the Elections. Stephen, Hersh & Shepsle (2012) give statistics that stretch as far as the 1972 elections. The authors claim that the public policy and political scholars have been puzzled by the ever-reducing participation rates of the young American population in the voting process. In the 1972 elections, only 53% of youth between 18 and 30 years cast the ballot. This percentage was reduced to 36% in the 2000 elections and is getting further down because between 2000 and 2012, the turnout gap between 18 and 29 and 30 and 44-year-old voters was at an average of 14%.

Winter (2014) explains in his article that the voter turnout in the midterm elections of 2014 in the US had the lowest turnout since 1942 when the US was in the middle of World War II. The United States Election Project predicted that only 36.3% of the eligible voters turned out to vote during the Election Day. Among this, voters that were between 18 and 29 years old were only 13% of the national electorate. This percentage was 6 percent less in 2012. A shocking statistic is shown in Champaign County, whereby only 48.5% turned out to vote during the election cycle. Kent Redfield, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois, Springfield explains that people have different but uniformly limited engagement in politics. According to him, there are people who constantly follow politics while others. Many of the youth in America lie in the category that does not constantly follow politics. It is, therefore, important to try hard and get their attention. After their attention is captured, commitment to the voting process is need. The preregistration process is one of the major steps that initiate this commitment.

The presidential elections grab more attention than the midterm electorate (Winter, 2014). It has been the tradition over the years that young voters turn out in fewer numbers for the midterm elections, even though these elections are highly partisan. Tom Rudolph, a professor of political science, adds his claim that young voters are also recognized historically as less committed voters. He adds that voting is supposed to be a habit that the younger voters have not established over the years. This is why voters who are above 45 years and have voted many times before can be counted on to vote. Aside from unfamiliarity with the voting process, the youth rarely participates in the voting process because of a number of other factors (nonprofit vote, 2013).

When the electoral process happens to be during a time when the college classes are going on, participating is difficult because they are registered back at home. Traveling to go back, and vote disrupts the learning process. The thing is that they are already pre-registered; schoolwork is what prevents them from going to vote. Moreover, the extra effort of getting changing their registration t where the school is located is a big challenge for them. Redfield adds that the politicians may contribute to low youth voter turnouts. He explains that politicians focus too much energy and resources on the people that they are certain will turn out in large numbers during the Election Day. The older people are the once that pay taxes, hence are the once likely to be interested in making voter decisions. The politicians perceive the youth as a group of people who spend their money elsewhere and do not pay any taxes.

Towards the end of his article, Winter (2014) explains that there are a number of organizations that try their best to encourage the youth to come out and vote. A good example is Rock the Vote. This is a not-for-profit organization that is also non-partisan that targets youth and encourages them to register or preregister before the elections. The president of the organization, Ashley Spillane explains that the objective of the organization is to inform youth that they are the future of America and the political decisions made today will affect their future individually.

Preregistration and Voter Turnout

Brians, & Grofman, (2001), argue that strict registration requirements are the main reason for the low voter turnout during the electoral process. Therefore, a few youths are captured into the legibility voting brackets, and thus the low number of registered youth voters in the United States compared to other democracies in the world. The 2014 mock elections presented the real picture of youth voter turnout, where an estimated number of youth voters being a quarter of the total number of registered voters (McGrath, 2012). The concerns about youth participation in civic processes had donned on the democratic institutions, as such trends create lapse between citizens and the elected leaders. The question is, does preregistration of youth voters help in reducing the poor voter turnout in the country? This question can only be answered upon effecting clear structural research portfolio with various states that adopt preregistration policies and those who don’t apply this policy. The problem of unequal representation arising from poor participation in the civic electoral process has threatened synergy and democratic space in ensuring proper and ethical transition from a youthful population to the age of maturity (Bell, Conners, & Sheckels, 2008). On the other hand, policymakers should adopt some changes like, allowing same-day registration, allowing early voting, loosening voter identification requirement for legibility, and allowing online registration. Geer et al., (2014), contends that these platforms shall ensure that the youthful voters are properly tapped into the electoral process.   However, reactions to the cost-saving electoral reforms have been varied, with one through of opinion reiterating its inability to tackle low voter turnout among the youths, while one side reiterates its impacts in boosting voter registration nd voting during an electoral process.

Civic education is considered one of the most fundamental platforms of ensuring a popular participation of youths in the electoral processes. These youths must be taught on the importance of   voting at personal, regional and national level. The responsibility of the young person to his or her country should start at the age of minority, and this must be coupled with identification. Creating the status of pending voters among youths has the capability of motivating and steering young people towards the voting process. According to Pacheco (2008), preregistration is critical to enhancing the civic responsibility of youths towards the electoral process. The need to steer positive correlation between youths and the civic process is key to ensuring sustainable voter turnout in the population. Norris (2009) reiterates that the instigation of preregistration is one mean of tapping the youthful voters during an election process. Thus, allowing youths to register at the ages 16 or 17 is a critical path to ensuring positive turnout during the Election Day.

According to Burden et al., (2014), preregistration is an important strategy for capturing the young voters as it has a distinct aspect of the previous reforms. While other reforms articulate the economy and convince of the general public, preregistration is one method of the kind that distinctively upholds the plight of young people who are both at home and school. Imagining a young person having voters card before his or her constitutionally mandated age, is a manifestation of democracy among these young people as it makes them equally competent and adults. Besides, preregistration ensures that youths get an ample civic education from their parents and the government at a very tender age. Geer, et al., (2014), state that preregistration encourages civic behaviors at schools and colleges and give the young people positive urge to participate in a democratic process. Political rights are enshrined in the constitution as a fundamental requirement of every citizen. Therefore, allowing the manifestation of this right to young people is one way of ensuring their positive growth and earlier fulfillment of this critical constitutional mandate. Lipka (2012), states that preregistration helps in developing positive political interest and aggression among youths and sometimes translate these to significantly higher voter turnout and democratization.

Voter Turnout and Felon Disenfranchisement among youths

According to Stein, & Vonnahme (2008) voter turnout among youths is also affected due to felony charges in the   federal courts. It is estimated that millions of youths fail to turn out during this crucial day due to their ineligibility to vote due to counts of felony charges. Felchner (2008), ascribes that felony convictions among youths have been on the rise since 1980, and this leads to massive absenteeism of youths to the voting process. Therefore, preregistration should be accompanied by a proper behavioral education that would guide the freedom of young people in the society. Disenfranchisement policies in various states have contributed to low voter turnout among youths, especially the black American youths. In addition,   drug possessions recorded among youths sometimes render them ineligible to vote thus cutting into the popular majority allowed to vote. Principally, preregistration should be accompanied by some behavioral lessons to make them legible for voting; besides repealing certain policies that lead to electoral felony disenfranchisement.

Preregistration and democracy

Leighley & Nagler (2013) explain that the concept of pre-registration in America has opened up a range of opportunities whereby teachers, government agencies, and organizations such as Rocking the Vote can create opportunities for the young people, especially teenagers to register. Teenagers between seventeen and sixteen years can preregister once they have a driver’s license (, n.d). One of the last opportunities for candidates is the high schools. This is an area with many potential voters that have not yet reached the voting age, but they will reach the voting age before or in the year of elections.

Holbein & Hillygus (2014) add that there are a number of major benefits for allowing the youth who haven’t reached the voting age to preregister. The Federal law has the mandate of protecting voters moving from a certain electoral jurisdiction. This means that a person who registers and moves to another place within the same voter jurisdiction or county has the chance of changing their address so that they can vote on Election Day. There are also states that do not allow registration of the Election Day, otherwise called same day registration. Preregistration gives such voters a chance to exercise their democratic right. Young voters can be equipped with crucial election information from the officials, prior to the Election Day. Examples of such information acquired include the options of early voting, voter identification requirements and different polling locations (, 2014).

Statistics also show that the process increases the level of democratic participation in elections (Kennedy & Cha-Mijin, 2014). According to the 2014 elections in Florida, 4.7% of the voters were preregistered before they had turned the voting age of 18. Empowering young people to the necessary information encourages them to show up on the day of the election. Moreover, the act of preregistering for voting sets a foundation for voting in the many elections to come.

Research Gap

The above information gives clear evidence that there has been a low voter turnout over the years of youth between the ages of 18 and 29. This is seen in the statistical data provided, political scientists and scholars in the field. The introduction of preregistration of youth voters seems to have been something that would encourage young voters to vote, from the many benefits of the system. However, the following research identifies that there is no specific evidence of the success of the process.


Ansolabehere, S, Hersh, E and Shepsle, A. (2012). “Movers, stayers, and

Bell, L. C., Conners, J. L., & Sheckels, T. F. (2008). Perspectives on political communication: A case approach. Boston: Pearson/A and B.

Brians, C. L., & Grofman, B. (2001). The Election Day Registration’s Effect on U.S. Voter Turnout. Social Science Quarterly (Wiley-Blackwell), 82(1), 170-184.

Burden, B. C., Canon, D. T., Mayer, K. R., & Moynihan, D. P. (2014). Election Laws, Mobilization, and Turnout: The Unanticipated Consequences of Election Reform. American Journal Of Political Science, 58(1), 95-109. doi:10.1111/ajps.12063 (2014, March 25). The Impact of Preregistration on Youth Turnout. Retrieved April 21, 2015, from (n.d). Voter Preregistration. Retrieved April 21, 2015, from

Felchner, M. E. (2008). Voting in America. Westport, Conn: Praeger.

Geer, J. G., Schiller, W. J., & Segal, J. A. (2014). Gateways to democracy: An introduction to the American government. Boston, MA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

Holbein, J. B. (2014, October 22). Making young voters: The impact of preregistration on youth turnout. American Journal of Political Science, 22(9), 1-50. Retrieved April 21, 2015

Inequality and Turnout in the United States” New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Kennedy, L. &.-M. (2014, February 18). Millions to the Polls: Preregistration of 16 and seven-year-olds. Retrieved from Demos:

Leighley, J. E., and J. Nagler (2013). “Who Votes Now? Demographics, Issues,

Lipka, S. (2012). Defying Expectations, Half of Young Voters Cast Ballots, 60% for Obama. Chronicle Of Higher Education, 59(12), A4.

McGrath, M. (2012). The Election reform and voter turnout: A review of the history. National Civic Review, 101(3), 38-43. doi:10.1002/ncr.21086

Neiheisel, J. R., and B. C. Burden (2012). “The impact of Election Day registration on

nonprofit vote. (2013, September ). America Goes to the Polls. Retrieved from

Norris, P. (2009). Critical citizens: Global support for democratic government. Oxford [u.a.: Oxford Univ. Press.

Pacheco, J. (2008). The Political Socialization in Context: The Effect of Political Competition on Youth Voter Turnout. Political Behavior,30(4), 415-436. doi:10.1007/s11109-008-9057-x Political Science 7(4):333-363. registration: why age is correlated with registration in the U.S.” Quarterly Journal of

Sayre, M. (2015, April 6). Making Young Voters: The Impact of Pre-registration on youth turnout. Retrieved from American Journal of Politica Science:

Simeon, R., & Lenard, P. T. (2012).The Imperfect democracies: The democratic deficit in Canada and the United States. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Stein, R. M., & Vonnahme, G. (2008). Engaging of the Unengaged Voter: Vote Centers and Voter Turnout. Journal Of Politics, 70(2), 487-497. Voter turnout and election outcomes” American Politics Research 40 (4), 636–664.

Winter, J. (2014, November 13). Voter turnout since WWII, youth vote just 13 percent of the total electorate. Retrieved from The Daily Illini:


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