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Get good voting habits started early

by Steve Simon
Spring is now upon us, and that means it’s time for some spring cleaning. It’s a good habit that many of us practice.
Spring is also the time Minnesota legislators make decisions about our future, so it’s a good time to talk about good habits.
We have a great opportunity this year in Minnesota to increase civic participation among young people and instill in the next generation of Minnesotans the values that have made our state a role model for the nation.
The Minnesota legislature is currently considering a bill that would allow 16 and 17-year-olds the ability to pre-register to vote, so when they turn 18 they are automatically registered.
It’s about getting good habits started early, and encouraging young people to think of themselves as both civically engaged and as voters before they turn 18.
Seems promising, right? It is, and I strongly urge the Minnesota legislature to pass pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds.
Young Minnesotans are leading the charge on this issue at the Capitol, and have put together a broad coalition with bipartisan support, including Republican and Democratic bill authors, as well as faith and labor communities.
Almost half the states already allow some form of pre-registration for high school-aged students – states with diverse political leanings and backgrounds.
Studies have shown in states like Florida and Hawaii that pre-registration’s effectiveness is widespread among “Republicans and Democrats, whites and minorities, and men and women.”
And pre-registration has increased voter turnout anywhere from 8 to 13 percent.
Perhaps most importantly, the proposal would give communities and schools the opportunity to work together and put in place the necessary structure, such as the ability to pre-register to vote in a high school civics class, so when young Minnesotans turn 18 they’re automatically registered and ready to be an active participant in their community.
-- Would 16 and 17-year-olds be able to vote? No, not until they’re 18 like everyone else. Pre-registration simply helps young people get good habits started early. And those who do pre-register to vote at 16 and 17 would, of course, be subject to the same security checks as if they submitted their application to register after their 18th birthday.
-- Will 16 and 17-year-olds appear on the voter rolls or public information list? No, just like every other voter they would not appear on the voter rolls or any public information list until they turn 18.
-- What happens when they move away to college? There are already easy checks in place to update someone’s voter registration if they move.
Pre-registration just makes common sense and the state legislature should pass it so Minnesota can continue to be a role model and lead the nation in voter turnout.
As a father, I want my children to have the opportunity to get involved in their communities. Pre-registration is big step in that direction.
But this is a decision your legislators have to make.
If you are a parent, student, or teacher, or if you simply care about Minnesota’s next generation, then I urge you to contact your local legislators and ask them to support pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds.
The state legislature is back from spring break, and will be making a lot of big decisions between now and the end of the legislative session in May.
Let’s make this a decision Minnesota can be proud of, and then let’s clean those windows before it’s too late.
Steve Simon is Minnesota’s
Secretary of State.

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