CHICAGO, IL – Democratic candidate for Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias wants Illinois to provide 16- and 17-year-olds the ability to pre-register to vote and become automatically registered upon turning 18.
The initiative would be linked to the state’s Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) system, which is administered by government agencies in Illinois, including the Secretary of State’s office, and automatically registers eligible citizens to vote using information it has on file.
In states that have enacted both AVR systems and pre-registration policies, driver’s license facilities can pre-register 16- and 17-year-olds when they interact with the office, including when they first apply for a driver’s license or state ID. If they choose to pre-register during that time, their voter registration will automatically activate when they reach the age of 18, the voting age for state and federal elections.
“Considering other states are passing new laws aimed at suppressing the vote and disenfranchising voters, Illinois must do what we can to protect voting rights and remove barriers to make it easier and more convenient to register and cast ballots,” said Giannoulias, noting that studies shown increased turnout among young people in states that have approved pre-registration laws.
“Engaging young people to register to vote at an early age and encouraging them to participate in the electoral process will not only improve voter turnout but ultimately strengthen our democracy,” added Giannoulias, who vowed to push for legislation in Springfield to allow for pre-registration. “We have a civic duty when it comes to enabling our young people to exercise their right to vote.”
Currently 19 states permit pre-registration at the age of 16 (15 states and Washington DC) or 17 (four states). Illinois allows individuals to register if they will turn 18 by the next election.
In Oregon, more than 195,500 16-and 17-year-old Oregonians have pre-registered to vote since 2007, with 77,800 pre-registering through the state’s AVR program between 2016 and 2018. Of those who later turned 18 and became eligible to vote during the 2018 election, more than 18,800 cast ballots.
Meanwhile, more than 220,000 16- and 17-year-olds were pre-registered to vote through California’s pre-registration policy between 2016 and 2018.
Giannoulias’ latest voting initiative comes a week after he proposed a change to the state’s AVR system by implementing a back-end system, which would automatically add eligible voters to the rolls without requiring additional steps on the part of the voter during their visit to a driver’s license facility.
As part of Giannoulias’ pre-registration proposal, election authorities would notify voters who pre-register when their registration has been activated and provide information prior to their first election. Giannoulias would also encourage schools to promote pre-registration as part of their civics studies.