Passing their driver’s license test is a primary goal for many 16-year-olds. Increasing their civic engagement and maybe creating a lifelong habit is likely down their to-do list.
But Rep. Larry Kraft (DFL-St. Louis Park) would like to make that more possible.
He sponsors HF110 that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to submit a voter registration application, even though they could not cast a ballot until age 18. All voting eligibility requirements would need to be met.
Current statute allows a Minnesotan who will be 18 before the next election to pre-register to vote.
Approved Wednesday via a split-voice vote by the House Elections Finance and Policy Committee, the bill’s next stop is the House Ways and Means Committee.
“I think this is a great bill because of the values it celebrates, that a democracy works best when more people of every generation, race, gender, background and political persuasion participate,” Kraft said. “By encouraging young people to build relationships with the political process as early as possible helps make voting a lifelong habit.”
He said various studies show a 2% to 9% increase in turnout among voters ages 18-21 where there is youth pre-registration.
Isaac Israel co-led a voter drive at St. Louis Park High School last fall and knows students want to take part.
“There was just a ton of energy, a ton of energy about voting and about getting to vote in our democracy,” he said. “It was not just seniors, it was freshmen, sophomores, juniors.”
Secretary of State Steve Simon calls the bill “long overdue,” and notes its previous bipartisanship across the country and in Minnesota. He said Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) was a previous sponsor of the idea
“When young people think of themselves as voters, even before they are officially voters, they are much more likely to vote the first time they are eligible to vote … and much more likely to make that a lifelong habit,” Simon said.
Public disclosure of data on applicants who have preregistered to vote would be prohibited until the voter is fully registered at age 18 or has voting history.