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Beyer, Duckworth, Ellison Introduce Pre-Registration of Voters Everywhere (PROVE) Act In House and Senate

Election reform bill would enable 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote in federal elections

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Washington, September 6, 2017 | comments

Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today introduced bicameral legislation to reform federal elections to allow young Americans 16 and older to pre-register to vote, automatically adding them to voter rolls when they turn 18. Studies show that permitting young people to pre-register increases civic engagement and voter turnout.

“This reform would encourage more voter participation among young people who will be most affected by public policy as their lives unfold,” said Rep. Beyer. “The health of our democracy requires greater engagement from its citizens, and pre-registration is a proven tool to accomplish this.”

The bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Beyer, and in the Senate by Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth.

“The right to vote is a founding tenet of our democracy, and the strength of our democracy depends upon the participation of the American people,” said Sen. Duckworth. “Yet, many Americans still face unnecessary barriers when it comes to casting their vote, and voter turnout continues to lag behind that of many other developed nations. We should be doing everything we can to make it easier – not harder – for Americans to access the ballot box. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bill to help young Americans become more civically engaged. By allowing Americans to pre-register at 16 years old, we have a chance to increase voter participation and strengthen voting rights for Americans across the country.”

Congressman Keith Ellison is the co-lead on the House version of the PROVE Act.

“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.

The legislation was introduced as Congress returned for its September session. September is nationally recognized as National Voter Registration Month.

“When young people come together to participate in elections, we have the strength to change our society for the better — to speak truth to power and create a system that works for all of us,” said Carolyn DeWitt, President of Rock the Vote. “That’s why Rock the Vote is proud to support the PROVE Act, a critical step toward helping the next generation of Americans register to vote and make their voices heard at the ballot box.”

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.

“Common Cause commends Congressmen Beyer and Ellison and Senator Duckworth 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.”

Rep. Beyer previously partnered with FairVote, a nonpartisan advocacy group researching and advancing electoral reforms, to introduce the Fair Representation Act, a bill designed to promote bipartisanship and end gerrymandering.

"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.

People aged 18-24 are consistently the least likely age group to cast a ballot, a trend which continued in 2016.

Full text of the bill is available here.

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