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RELEASE: Automatic Voter Registration Is a Win For Millennials And Our Country’s Democracy As a Whole

Washington, D.C. — As America’s largest, most diverse generation, Millennials face a unique set of socioeconomic barriers keeping them from realizing their full political voice. While Millennials make up over one-third of the eligible voter population, only half cast ballots in 2016. At the same time, voting rights are being suppressed and manipulated here at home, compounding the many structural hurdles already keeping young people from voting and participating in our nation’s democracy. Today, a new report from the Center for American Progress, Generation Progress, and the Alliance for Youth Action offers a portrait of how automatic voter registration (AVR) systems would especially benefit young people by increasing voter access while making our voting system more secure and efficient.

AVR, the report argues, is a commonsense effort to ensure an efficient, inclusive, and secure voter registration system for the modern era. The new analysis found that obstacles in the voter registration system have a substantial impact on hindering participation amongst young people, who are highly transient and less familiar with arcane voting rules. The report uses Oregon’s implementation of AVR—the first such system in the nation— as a working case study on how to increase youth voter registration and turnout.

“At a time when America’s electoral system is being threatened by President Trump’s sham voter commission and undermined by Russian interference, we need strong solutions that ensure the security and accuracy of our voting rolls, while increasing voter access for all eligible Americans,” said Liz Kennedy, director of Democracy and Government Reform at the Center for American Progress. “Millennials—who are the future of this country— represent the largest and most diverse generation. They need to have a voice in government by expressing their political power at the ballot box. AVR protects the integrity of our voter registration lists, while facilitating voter participation, particularly for Millennials.”

Oregon, the first state to successfully implement AVR, has seen huge gains in participation. The report highlights that between the 2012 and 2016 general elections, the number of registered Oregon voters age 18 to 29 increased by 100,000, while the eligible voter population only grew by 12,000. Nationwide, however, 18- to 29-year-old nonvoters most commonly cited “not being registered” as their primary reason for not voting in the 2012 general election. Moreover, only 13 percent of young voters in 2012 held accurate understandings about their state’s voter registration deadline, while a shocking 87 percent either did not know their state’s deadline or were misinformed.

“Millennials face unprecedented challenges—crushing student debt, crippling housing insecurity, and cratering wages and benefits, among many others—but also untapped potential as biggest eligible voting bloc in the country,” said Henry Kraemer, Program Director at the Alliance for Youth Action. “To unleash our generation’s power, we need to make sure Millennials can cast ballots free of barriers. Registration is the biggest driver of turnout gaps for young people, and automatic voter registration goes a long way to giving young voters parity at the ballot—and a fighting chance to force government to address our needs.”

Recommendations in the report include:

  • Expanding AVR outside of the DMV
  • Offering point of service voter status adjustment cards to opt-out or choose a party
  • Establish secure AVR policies that do not overburden the registrant
  • Allowing same-day or Election Day registration

“Millennials are the largest and most diverse generation in American history,” said Maggie Thompson, executive director of Generation Progress. “While the current administration is engaging in cynical attacks on our right to vote, Millennials are pushing for innovative policies like automatic voter registration to enfranchise our peers and ensure that our elected representatives better reflect the values and diversity of our inclusive generation.”

Click here to access the full report.

For more information or to speak to an expert on this topic, please contact Tanya Arditi at tarditi@americanprogress.org or 202-741-6258.

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