February 28, 2019

Duckworth, Beyer, Van Hollen & Feinstein Re-introduce Legislation to Strengthen Voting Rights and Support Civic Participation

The PROVE Act would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote in federal elections


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), along with a group of 15 Senators, re-introduced the Pre-Registration of Voters Everywhere (PROVE) Act today to expand voter registration efforts nationwide and increase American citizens’ participation in their democratic process. The PROVE Act would allow citizens who are 16 and 17 years old to pre-register to vote so they can be added to voter rolls when they turn 18. Representative Don Beyer (D-VA) also introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives today.

“The right to vote is a founding tenet of our democracy, and the strength of our democracy depends upon the participation of the American people,” said Duckworth. “Yet, many Americans still face unnecessary barriers when it comes to casting their vote, and voter turnout continues to lag behind that of many other developed nations. We should be doing everything we can to make it easier – not harder – for Americans to access the ballot box. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bill to help young Americans become more civically engaged. By allowing Americans to pre-register at 16 years old, we have a chance to increase voter participation and strengthen voting rights for Americans across the country.”

Young people are already allowed to pre-register to vote in fourteen states beginning at 16 years old – including the District of Columbia – in Illinois, young people can pre-register if they turn 18 by the next election. The PROVE Act would eliminate this discrepancy and nationalize the standard age to pre-register at 16 and 17 years old. This would increase civic participation among young Americans by reducing existing barriers many young people face when it comes to voting in federal elections. Duckworth and Beyer co-authored an op-ed last Congress about how their election reform bill would expand voter participation nationwide.

“The more citizens engage in our democracy, the stronger it is. Pre-registration is a proven tool to accomplish that engagement,” said Rep. Beyer. “With this reform, young people will vote more.  And young Americans are those who will be most affected by the public policy we make today. As the House takes up election reform, I look forward to consideration of measures such as this one that will make it easier for people to vote.”

“Too many Americans face barriers in participating in our democracy. Regardless of party or political background, we should always be working to increase the number of people who vote. The PROVE Act would do just that, ensuring that young people are pre-registered to vote and ready to head to the ballot box when they turn 18 years old,” said Senator Van Hollen. “Maryland has been a national leader on this issue, and this legislation will help move the entire nation forward and ultimately strengthen our democratic process.”

“Young people vote at far lower rates than older Americans. We need to do much more to change that and encourage them to participate in the political process. By allowing young people to pre-register to vote at age 16, we will make it easier for them to actually cast ballots once they turn 18,” said Senator Feinstein.

Duckworth has been a vocal advocate for strengthening voting rights in Illinois and across the country. Earlier this week, Duckworth joined Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) and six other Democrats to introduce the Voting Rights Empowerment Act, which focuses on improved access to the ballot, increased accountability during elections, and preserving the integrity of the election system.

The PROVE Act is endorsed by Common Cause, Fair Vote Action, Head Count, and Rock the Vote.

Cosponsors of the PROVE Act include U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH),  Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Full text of the bill is available here.