By Anisha Singh, Brittney Souza, and Danielle Root
February 21, 2019
Caption : Getty/Robyn Beck/AFP Students wait in line to cast their ballot at a polling station in Irvine, California, November 2018.     

To read our latest report on how pro-voter policies like Automatic Voter Registration and preregistration are impacting young voters, please read our new report below. If you have a story about how the election process in your state has impacted your ability to vote, share it with us at Our Vote, Our Voice.

Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) and preregistration are innovative policies that can increase voter registration and broaden civic engagement among Millennials and Generation Zs. Using the AVR and preregistration programs in Oregon and California as examples, along with new data from the 2018 midterm elections, this report illustrates the success these policies have had in registering eligible young people to vote and increasing their civic participation.

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The programs noted above, which streamline the voter registration process, work as follows: AVR takes information already housed in state departments of motor vehicles (DMV) records, such as  voters’ date of birth and address, and automatically sends it to the state elections office to register eligible citizens to vote. In states with both AVR and preregistration policies, 16- and 17-year-olds can preregister to vote when they interact with state agencies, including when applying for their driver’s license; their voter registration will become active automatically when they turn 18. Moreover, AVR and preregistration are particularly effective when they are combined. For instance, between January 2016 and August 2017, state DMVs submitted more than 1.8 million AVR transactions to the Oregon secretary of state for processing. By August 2017, Oregon’s AVR program—known as Oregon Motor Voter—registered more than 390,000 new potential voters. Of those citizens, more than 50 percent were under the age of 40 years old. The state’s preregistration program, which debuted in 2007 for 17-year-olds before expanding to include 16-year-olds in 2016, has seen more than 195,500 young Oregonians register to vote. More than 77,800 young people used AVR to preregister to vote and update their voter information. Of those who reached voting age during the 2018 midterms, more than 18,800 voted in that election.

California implemented its AVR program—also called Motor Voter—in the spring of 2018. Despite some initial problems with implementation, an estimated  2.3 million Californians were registered or had their voter registration information updated through AVR. In addition, more than 221,700 16- and 17-year-olds have registered through California’s preregistration program, which was adopted in 2014. As was the case in Oregon, combining AVR with preregistration policies has been particularly effective in California. Of the 221,700 young, preregistered Californians, more than 77,600 preregistered or had their voter information updated through AVR. Of those preregistrants who reached voting age—50,800 individuals, or roughly 65 percent—turned out to vote in the 2018 midterms.

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