Press Releases

Beyer, Ellison Celebrate National Voter Registration Month with New Bill

PROVE Act to Boost Voter Participation

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Washington, September 16, 2015 | Tia Shuyler (202-225-4376) | comments

Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) and Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), with Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), celebrated National Voter Registration Month today by introducing the Pre-Registration of Voters Everywhere (PROVE) Act.  Beyer’s legislation would allow young Americans over the age of sixteen to pre-register to vote, streamlining the voting process once they turn eighteen. 

“This is a common sense reform to increase civic engagement in our youngest generations,” said Rep. Beyer.  “Pre-registration, especially when reinforced with a strong civics curriculum, is a proven method to boost engagement in future generations.  This is a small but meaningful step to strengthening representative government and our American democracy.” 

“Our nation is stronger when our government reflects the makeup and the values of the American people. One way to ensure that is by making it easier to vote and getting as many people as possible to the ballot box. The PROVE Act will do just that. In the 20 states where sixteen year olds can already pre-register, civic engagement for young people is higher. Passing a federal law requiring all states to allow pre-registration will help our government be more representative and respond to the needs of all Americans,” said Rep. Ellison

“To help tackle the poverty, over-criminalization, violence, and unemployment we see in communities across this country, especially poor communities of color, we must help our children understand the power of their vote,” original cosponsor Rep. Cummings said. “The PROVE Act works to engage our nation’s young people with the election process early, and to encourage their lasting participation in our democracy for years to come.” 

Young people are already allowed to pre-register to vote in twenty states and the District of Columbia.  The PROVE Act would nationalize this standard to engage more youth voters, who are overwhelmingly marginalized at the ballot box, and provide grant assistance to states to drive civics education.  In the last election, only sixteen percent of eligible voters under the age of 24 cast their vote. 

The non-profit grassroots organization Common Cause, dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, has already signed on to support the Beyer-Ellison legislation. 

“Common Cause commends Congressmen Beyer and Ellison for introducing the PROVE Act,” said Aaron Scherb, Director of Legislative Affairs at Common Cause. “At a time when some states and localities are making it more difficult for Americans to vote, the PROVE Act is desperately needed to help ensure that all eligible voters can have their voices heard at the ballot box.” 

Project Vote, a national nonprofit working to empower, educate, and mobilize low income, minority, youth, and other underrepresented voters, pledged their support to the PROVE Act. 

"We applaud the leadership of Congressmen Beyer and Ellison on this important issue," said Marissa Liebling, Legislative Director for Project Vote. "Young Americans remain dramatically underrepresented at the ballot box, and pre-registration has proven to be an effective and efficient way of engaging this population in the democratic process."

FairVote, an advocacy group researching and advancing electoral reforms to make democracy more functional, representative, and fair, also weighed in to support the PROVE Act.

"It's time to make pre-registration a national norm. We've supported and tracked it from the beginning. Experience shows that voter pre-registration is good government that efficiently increases the number of young people accurately placed on active voter rolls when they reach voting age. It has passed by lopsided margins in Republican-run states like Florida and Louisiana and in Democratic-run states like Maryland and Delaware -- and delivered on its promises in all of them,” said Rob Richie, Executive Director of FairVote.

  Pre-registration was one aspect of ‘access to the ballot’ that the Center for American Progress used when grading the Health of State Democracies in a recent report.  Of the fifty states and the District of Columbia, Virginia ranked a disappointing 50th.
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