Voting /

Michigan Lawmakers Propose Allowing 16-Year-Olds to 'Preregister' to Vote

During the 2020 election, Michigan had the highest rate of young voters of any state

Democratic lawmakers in Michigan have proposed expanding voter registration to include teenagers, arguing the change will encourage young people to participate in elections when they come of age.

The proposal resembles policies already in place in several states. 

State Representative Betsy Coffia introduced House Bill 4569 which would create a preregistration option for Michigan residents between the ages of 16 and 17-and-a-half years old. Once the residents turn 18, they would be automatically registered to vote. 

Early participation, getting preregistered, is important because democracy works best when we’re all prepared to participate and make our voices heard,” said Coffia during a House Elections Committee hearing on May 23.

Coffia argued that high school students demonstrate civic participation through their government classes and already take on adult responsibility when they get their drivers’ licenses. Ensuring their voting registration would ultimately increase voter turnout, the state representative said.

“By allowing future voters the option of preregistration, we can direct that newfound enthusiasm towards completing their first steps in democratic participation and hopefully a lifetime of robust civic engagement,” Coffia said, per MLive.

Michigan had the highest rate of young voters during the November 2022 election, according to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office: 37 percent of voters 18-29 cast ballots, compared with 23 percent nationwide. Young voters historically are more likely to vote for Democrats,” reports Votebeat

Washington, D.C. and fifteen states already permit 16-year-olds to preregister to vote before their 18th birthday. Four states — Maine, Nevada, New Jersey and West Virginia — allow future voters to preregister at 17 years old. Alaska, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, and Texas have varying policies that allow 17-year-olds to register to vote two or three months before they turn 18.

“Twenty-five states do not specifically address an age for registration and instead allow an individual to register if they will turn 18 by the next election (note that this usually refers to the next general election, with some exceptions),” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. “In some states this may mean that youth could register as soon as the previous general election is over, so that could be as early as 16 years of age. Reach out to your state election officials for details.” 

New York lowered its preregistration age from 17 to 16 in December of 2019. Teens must provide documents verifying their age, place of residence and citizenship either at a Local Department of Motor Vehicles or while completing an online voter registration form. 

Michigan’s HB 4569 is part of a four-bill package focused on altering state election regulations. The other bills call for the end of a ban on paying for rides to polling places, stopping automatic challenges for certain ballots, and establishing a tracking system for absentee ballots.

Republicans in the Michigan Legislature have expressed concern about potential problems that could hurt election integrity if preregistration were passed.

Representative Jay DeBoyers, a member of the House Election Committee, released a statement warning of the possible ramification of adopting the policy package.

“These bills would leave our elections process in Michigan ripe for abuse,” said DeBoyer. “Our most recent general election created many questions and concerns regarding process. These questions and concerns made it clear that we need a more effective and efficient system that gives more people trust in how things are administered and faith in the results.”

“We should focus on these concerns instead of moving forward with new proposals that would likely create more questions and further water down our process,” he said.  

*For corrections please email [email protected]*