Among the numerous bills at play in Olympia that I have been following this legislative session, here is simple change we could make in Washington to improve voter participation and strengthen our democracy. Engrossed House Bill 2205 would allow eligible young people aged 16 and 17 to pre-register to vote. This bill has been championed by youth advocacy organization, Washington Bus.
Civic engagement is critical to a well-functioning democracy, and we need everyone participating. We often hear that young people don’t vote reliably, and I believe that this could be a step towards turning that story around in Washington. Voting and civic participation are learned habits, so, the theory goes, engaging young people in the process will promote increased voter turnout later in life.
Here is how it would work. A person who is at least 16 years-old and who meets all other voter registration requirements would be authorized to register to vote with the Secretary of State. But the registration will be withheld from entry into the Statewide Voter Registration Database until the voter turns 18 years old and are eligible to vote. Once the voter turns 18, the voter will be sent notice confirming that his or her voter registration has been entered into the Statewide Voter Registration Database and that the voter is now eligible to vote.
This bill passed out of the Senate committee it was in today and is now off to the Rules committee. It needs to get out of Rules in order to make it to the Senate floor for a vote.
Here is a great video from Washington Bus on why this bill is needed: