April 26, 2022

Duckworth Re-Introduces Legislation to Expand Voting Rights and Improve Civic Participation


[WASHINGTON D.C.]— Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), alongside 12 democratic Senators, re-introduced the Pre-Registration of Voters Everywhere (PROVE) Act to expand voter registration efforts nationwide and increase American citizens’ participation in the democratic process. The PROVE Act would allow for U.S. citizens aged 16 and 17 to pre-register to be added to voter rolls when they turn 18. Additionally, the PROVE Act also provides $25 million in grants, over two years, for states to distribute to schools and localities to develop curriculums aiming to encourage civic engagement.

“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 Senator Duckworth. “Unfortunately, many Americans are facing unnecessary barriers when it comes to casting their vote, and voter turnout continues to lag behind that of many other developed nations. We should constantly be looking for ways to bring new voters into the fold and make voting easier—not harder. I’m proud to re-introduce the PROVE Act to help get young Americans registered to vote as soon as they’re eligible, which could help boost voter participation.” 

Across the country, more than 20 states—including Illinois—already allow young Americans to pre-register to vote before they turn 18. The PROVE Act would eliminate the state-by-state discrepancies and uniformly enable 16- and 17-year-old citizens to pre-register to vote and automatically be added to voter rolls when they turn 18. This legislation would increase the civic participation among young Americans and help address the 20 percent gap in voter registration between 18–24-year-olds and the national average of all ages.

Duckworth previously re-introduced the PROVE Act in 2019. This year, the cosponsors of the PROVE Act include U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). In the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Representative Don Beyer (D-VA-08) introduced the companion legislation.

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

“We have a civic duty to ensure that all young Americans can exercise their freedom to vote, especially as some states are making it more difficult for certain Americans to vote. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented substantial challenges to young voters, many of whom already face significant barriers to having their voices heard and votes counted under normal circumstances,” said Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn. “Common Cause was instrumental in helping to pass the 26th Amendment to the Constitution to lower the voting age to 18, and we commend Senator Duckworth for her leadership in introducing the common-sense PROVE Act to allow pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds to help amplify the voices of young voters.”

“Rock the Vote fully endorses the PROVE Act as a critical step to create a more representative and healthy democracy,” said Carolyn DeWitt, President of Rock the Vote. “Pre-registration is a nonpartisan, common sense policy that has been successfully adopted in states across the country and has proven to help close the voter participation gap. As new voters, young people face disproportionate barriers to voting, resulting in a generation that is continually underrepresented. We, as a country, do little to prepare young people to engage in the civic process, resulting in major disparities in participation. The PROVE Act will help make strides in increasing young voter turnout."

"Now more than ever, we need to nurture citizens who are active participants in our democracy," said Rob Richie, President and CEO of FairVote. "Voter pre-registration is a good-government, common-sense reform that gets more young people on the voter rolls and engaged in the important work of self-governance. FairVote has supported and tracked pre-registration for nearly 20 years, and the verdict is in: it works. Pre-registration has delivered on its promises in Republican-run states like Florida and Louisiana and in Democratic-run states like Maryland and Delaware, and it's time to make it a national norm." 

Full text of the bill is available here.