Bill would allow 16- and 17-year olds to preregister to vote

Staff writerJanuary 14, 2014 

A bill that would allow young people to preregister to vote when gaining a drivers license has a second chance during the 2014 legislative session.

Sponsored by Democratic Rep. Steve Bergquist, a social studies teacher from Renton, the proposal would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote when they receive a drivers license or state-issued identification card.

The bill, Engrossed House Bill 1279, was introduced during the last legislative session and passed the House, but didn’t make it out of committee in the Senate.

“Studies show that people that begin voting at an early age continue voting,” Bergquist said. He added that those who register later are more sporadic in their voting patterns.

Newly-elected Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall testified in favor of the legislation at a public hearing Tuesday.

“It is our responsibility to promote voter registration,” said Hall. She continued by saying that the legislature needs to “ensure that we don’t have people slipping through the cracks” and that all those eligible to vote are can register to do so.

Critics of the bill, such as Katie Blinn, director of legislative policy and governmental relations for the Office of the Secretary of State, is unsure of the effectiveness of the proposed legislation. Blinn said the cost benefits of the program need to be examined. In addition, Blinn added that logistical problems with the legislation, such as the managing of the preregistration process, needs to be worked out before the legislation is passed.

The bill was heard Tuesday in the House Government Elections and Operations committee, of which Bergquist is the vice chair. After the public hearing, the bill is expected to be voted on within the committee in an executive session, and could once more come up for a vote on the House floor.

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