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Youth Voter Registration Exceeds 2016 Levels in Most States

However, in 16 states, registration among youth ages 18-19 is lower than in 2016, suggesting the pandemic may have hindered efforts to reach the youngest eligible voters

There's now a week until Election Day and—except in states that allow for same-day registration—voter registration deadlines have already passed across the country. Our snapshot of voter registration data reveals that, in 32 out of 40 states, registration among youth (ages 18-24) is higher today than it was in early November 2016.

In most cases, the gains are modest, with single-digit increases in 14 states, including electoral battlegrounds like Iowa, Florida, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. In some states, namely Vermont, Minnesota, Idaho, and Georgia, voter registration among this age group has increased by more than 33%. The potential increase in youth voter participation in Georgia may be especially critical; we have identified it as one of the states where young people have the highest potential to shape election results in the state at every level.

On the other hand, voter registration is lower in seven states, especially in Arkansas and Rhode Island—both at 13% lower than in 2016.

Outlook Slightly Less Promising for the Youngest Voters

As we explored when we looked at voter registration data in September, the picture is more uneven when we look at voter registration for young people ages 18-19. In 16 states, voter registration for that age group is down from November 2016, including 20% lower in Oregon, 36% lower in Rhode Island, and 46% lower in South Dakota. At the same time, in some of the states where registration among the youngest eligible voters is higher, the gains have been more dramatic. In six states—Maine, New Jersey, California, Kansas, Minnesota, and Idaho—it’s more than 50% higher than in November. In Idaho it’s more than 130% higher, though that is in part due to the fact that the state has fewer than 10,000 eligible voters in that age group and they had relatively low youth voter registration in the past presidential election.

The variance in youth voter registration for this age group may be explained by multiple factors. First and foremost, of course, are the myriad challenges of reaching and registering new voters during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, states have different policies that either help or hinder the process of growing voters, whether it’s electoral laws that allow pre-registration or statutes that strengthen civic education.

We will continue to track youth voter registration and update these numbers. Explore our 2020 Election Center for more data leading up to Election Day.


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