How can you take a step into the political realm and exercise your voting rights before turning 18? Pre-register to vote. While you must be at least 18 years old to vote in elections, 16-year-olds may pre-register on or after their 16th birthday and may vote in any election on or after their 18th birthday without additional paperwork to fill out.
Pre-registrants fill out an application and are added to the voter registration list with a “pre-registration” status, automatically adding them to the voter registration list at 18 years of age and allowing them to cast a ballot.
California launched online pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds to encourage teenagers to begin thinking about the voting process before being able to legally vote in March last year. This program simplified the pre-registration process, allowing teens to pre-register in mere minutes on their phones, tablets or laptops. In the first months of the program’s activation, 88,700 teenagers pre-registered.
Hawaii used to be the only state that allowed 16-year-olds to sign up; several others states have approved laws allowing 16-year-olds to preregister in recent years. These changes occurred because young adult voter turnout has lagged behind the general population, and pre-registration is viewed as a potential answer to that problem.
Teens are becoming more and more politically active nowadays, and to truly get your voice out there, it’s important to take the next step and pre-register to vote. Advocacy and activism for specific topics is extremely important, but the most effective way to make your voice heard is to cast a vote.