Tuesday was National Voter Registration Day, which included pre-registration events at schools throughout South Florida. This caught my attention and the attention of several listeners who had questions about what “pre” registration means.
Florida is one of fourteen states that allows for “pre-voter” registration as early as age 16. It is a recent phenomenon in Florida. Pre-voter registration, at age 16, has only been law since 2008. Here’s what the statute states: A person who is otherwise qualified may preregister on or after that person's 16th birthday and may vote in any election occurring on or after that person's 18th birthday.
While it’s not legal to vote prior to turning 18, the way pre-registration works in Florida is straight-forward. Those who pre-register are automatically added to voter rolls on their 18th birthday and only need to show up with voter ID to vote like other registered voters in the state.
The concept of pre-registration is much older than the law Florida enacted. Once the 26th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1971, indicating the lawful voting age for federal elections as being 18, questions were raised about the timing of one’s birthday as it pertained to voter registration. To prevent unintended disenfranchisement of potential voters who turn 18 by Election Day, states began to craft policy to clarify the ability to register to vote prior to one’s 18th birthday. As a result, most states allow registration at 17 with various stipulations. Florida decided to go much further, essentially tying the ability to vote with one’s ability to obtain a driver’s license at 16. Or at least that was the logic/justification used.
There aren’t any public records available on those who’ve preregistered in Florida, after all, they’re minors, so it’s unclear how prevalent this is in our state or the other thirteen where it exists.
Photo by: Joe Raedle/Getty Images