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How to register to vote before you’re 18—and what states allow you to do it

When you turn 16, most teens gain the ability to get a drivers license, and with that, a newfound freedom to go where you want, when you want. But in 14 states, along with Washington D.C., another freedom comes with turning 16: the ability to register (or preregister) to vote. We're breaking down all the deets below:

What is the difference between registering and preregistering to vote?

Preregistration is basically an extra step that some states do before registering citizens to vote. If you preregister to vote, it means that once you turn 18, you will be automatically registered to vote. Each state has different ages that you can preregister to vote, so check out the list here!

What states allow you to register to vote before you're 18?

14 states (California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah and Washington) along with Washington D.C., allow you to preregister or register to vote when you turn 16. Four more states (Maine, Nevada, New Jersey and West Virginia) allow you to preregister to vote at 17. 

Why should I register to vote if I can just do it when I'm 18?

Voting is one of the most important things you can do to contribute to a healthy and functioning democracy. Even if you plan on voting when you're 18, registering to vote before then just means that there's one less step you have to do before voting! 

OK, I want to register to vote before I'm 18. How do I register?

The requirements are different for each state. Check out what your state requires here, and then just click on your state's name to go to the voter registration page!


by Serena Sherwood | 10/3/2020