Arizona law permits a 17 year old who will be 18 years old at the next election to pre-register to vote before he or she is 18 years old.
The state of Louisiana — and I cannot believe I am saying this — now has the most progressive voter registration law in the country. I have long advocated for the Univeral Voter Registration (.pdf) system proposed by the Brennan Center for Justice, which includes automatic voter registration and an “opt out” provision. Louisiana has now taken a step in this direction. Fair Vote reports, Louisiana’s New Voter Pre-Registration Law Features Automatic Registration:
Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal signed a youth pre-registration bill into law this May, an action confirming the state’s position as a frontrunner in registering young people to vote. The bill, HB501, lowers the voter registration age to 16-years-old for those applying for a license with the Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV). This change builds upon previous legislation, which allowed 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote. The 17-years-old requirement is still in place for those registering outside of the OMV.
Louisiana’s HB501 is unique among pre-registration laws because it requires the OMV to register 16- and 17-year-olds to vote unless they explicitly decline — making it an example of the “opt-out” approach backed by FairVote over “opt-in” laws. If applied nationwide, an “opt-out” system would register significantly more voters than our current registration system, which requires voters to specify that they wish to be registered. While the current opt-in system assumes that the default voter reaction will be non-participation, an opt-out approach makes the default willingness to to be on the voter rolls. This change increases participation in our democracy while protecting the interest of those who do not wish to be registered.
The unanimous passage of HB501 in the Louisiana state senate underscores the bipartisan nature of voter pre-registration and the great potential of a general shift to “opt-out” approaches to voter registration. Florida in 2008 enacted voter pre-registration for 16-year-olds, with an overwhelming majority in its Republican-controlled legislature and the signature of a Republican governor. Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia have also passed similar legislation
Louisiana has a history of trailblazing smart election policy, as exhibited by it being the first state to use ranked choice ballots for overseas and out-of-state military voters in congressional and state runoff elections. HB501 is another innovative bill that has the potential to significantly increase the number of young Louisianans who are registered to vote and ultimately participate in our representative democracy.
You may recall that Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown’s attempt to enact a full-scale universal voter registration system in Oregon failed by a single vote in the Oregon senate last year. Oregon Senate rejects universal voter registration proposal.
Universal voter registration is an issue for which the candidates for Secretary of State this year should be asked their positions. You should only support a candidate who supports moving Arizona to a universal voter registration system.