LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Michigan will join 16 other states and Washington D.C. soon in allowing 16-year-olds to be able to preregister to vote. The legislation allowing this, House Bill 4569, comes from Michigan Democratic legislators and has been sent to Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s desk to be signed. Once the bill is signed, the new legislation will go into effect next year.
All of the Democrats in the state’s House and Senate voted for the bill and all of the Republicans voted against it.
Currently, Michigan allows teenagers 17-and-a-half years of age or older to register to vote in order to prepare for their first election when they will be 18-years-old. The new law extends the right to Michiganders as young as 16. The legislation doesn’t automatically register them to vote but instead makes them eligible to be moved into the state’s qualified voter file (QVF) once they reach the age of 17-and-a-half. If they are 18 on election day, they can also participate in early in-person voting and absentee voting as well.
Bill sponsor Rep. Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse City) says about the bill in a statement, “Allowing young people to pre-register to vote – particularly while they’re learning about civics and the democratic process in school – will undoubtedly increase participation in our elections by ensuring when they are legally eligible to vote at 18, they will be all set to become a lifelong voter.”
Voting rights organizations including “Promote the Vote” and “Voters Not Politicians” testified in support of the legislation – and there was no testimony in opposition to the bill other than two people who submitted cards to the committee in opposition.
According to the legislation, by July of 2024, the Secretary of State’s office will contact every Michigan resident between the ages of 16 and 18 years old who has applied for a driver’s license or state identification card and is eligible to preregister or register to vote and has not already done so. In subsequent years, the outreach to the teenage voters will happen every April.
The Secretary of State and the Michigan Department of Education will also coordinate an annual outreach campaign to teenagers with the education department providing every public high school with voter registration and preregistration materials. The coordinated public education and outreach campaign is mandated in the legislation.
In addition to Washington DC and the state of Michigan, the other states allowing 16-year-olds to preregister to vote include California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
The National Conference of State Legislatures says that the argument for implementing preregistration policies has to do with increasing youth turnout. Turnout among 18 to 29-year-olds is consistently lower than other age brackets, so states looking to preregistration as one option to engage young voters in the electoral process. A series of studies have shown the preregistration has a positive effect on youth turnout.