Pre-Registration Bill Clears Committee Hurdle with Aid from Youth
St. Paul, Minn.— Senator Jim Carlson (DFL-Eagan) has renewed his efforts to improve Minnesotans’ participation in elections with a bill designed to clarify preregistration rules. While Minnesota currently allows some preregistration, the system is overly complex and leaves many wondering if they could be in violation of state election law.
“This bill has been youth-drafted, youth-advocated, and youth-led all the way,” said Sen. Carlson, who was joined by high school student Ellie Goldfarb at the testifying table for the Senate Elections Subcommittee. Goldfarb encouraged the committee to approve the bill, which would encourage young people to get involved in the political process and strengthen our democracy through active citizenship.
Sen. Carlson’s legislation would clarify that the age at which someone can preregister to vote is 17 years old. While current law allows citizens to register if they will be 18 in the next general election, the law contains unnecessary complexities. For example, it is difficult for young would-be-voters to find information about what elections count as “general elections,” driving down participation in Minnesota’s next generation of voters.
“This bill does not change the voting age or registers anybody to vote, but it does set up Minnesota’s youth for engagement in civil society,” said Sen. Carlson. “Creating a clear bright line for preregistration eligibility will get more people using the program and getting good habits started early.” The bill has strong support from Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, and after working on the legislation over the interim, Carlson has authored compromise language that unites supporters and past opponents.
Individuals wanting to preregister would still have to meet the requirements for citizenship of the United States and maintain a residence in Minnesota for at least 20 days. 21 other states and the District of Columbia allow some form of preregistration. Many states allow 16 year olds to preregister, though Sen. Carlson’s bill is limited to 17 year olds. This bill was introduced and supported by young leaders from Sen. Carlson’s district and across Minnesota.
The bill will be considered for inclusion in a larger election reform bill later this session.