The Issue

Every election, millions of young voters register to vote for the first time. While the registration process is important for administrative reasons, it too often introduces unnecessary barriers to participation in our democracy. Some states impose arbitrary and punitive deadlines, requiring prospective voters to register up to a month in advance of election day. Registration should be easily available through Election Day—voters should not be turned away from the polls because they didn’t think to register weeks in advance of an election.

The Solutions

Registration does not have to be a difficult process! There are a number of proven, commonsense policies that can solve this problem:

  1. Automatic Voter Registration (AVR), enacted in almost half of the states, means that all citizens are registered to vote by default when they interact with government offices (like the DMV). AVR leads to massive increases in voter registration, and Common Cause has been integral to getting AVR passed through bipartisan efforts in states including Maryland, Illinois, and New Mexico. 
  2. Same Day Registration, adopted in 20 states, drops arbitrary deadlines and allows voters to register as late as Election Day, ensuring eligible voters are not turned away on the day of the election.
  3. Pre-Registration for 16 and 17 year olds, active in about a third of states, prepares and encourages young people to vote while they are still in high school. This is especially important for those who do not go to college, one of the most underrepresented groups at the ballot box
  4. Online Registration, in effect in 42 states, gives people a quick alternative to cumbersome paper applications.


Take Action 

As voter registration processes are generally determined by the states, the best way to help make progress on this issue is by advocating to your state legislators or election officials (often your state’s Secretary of State, Board of Elections, or Election Commission). You can also support efforts at the federal level, such as the Vote at Home Act of 2023, which

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