A Longmont lawmaker has introduced a new bill that seeks to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote when they get their driver's license.
The voter registration would then activate on their 18th birthday.
The legislation is backed by New Era Colorado, a youth civic group started by University of Colorado graduate Steve Fenberg. The group hosts a range of voter registration events on college campuses throughout the fall, including a trick-or-vote event where members go door-to-door in student-dense neighborhoods surrounding the CU campus and register students to vote.
Fenberg said the pre-registration could help boost young voter participation in elections.
"Sixteen is a natural time when young people begin interacting with the government," he said.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, will likely have better luck passing through the Democratic-controlled Legislature this year. A similar bill has been introduced the past two years. Last year, it died in committee on a party-line vote, with Republicans striking it down.
Some Republicans say they are concerned the pre-registration measure opens up opportunity for voter fraud if, for example, a young person moves out of state and re-registers there.
The bill has been assigned to the state affairs committee. High school students, civics teachers and principals -- including some from Boulder -- are expected to testify in favor of the legislation when it comes up for its first hearing, likely next week.
Fenberg suspects opponents may criticize the cost of the project -- though, he said, it's a small change to the software that can be done for a minimal price.
One year, the fiscal note attached to the bill estimated it would cost $2,000. The next year, the estimate was $70,000.
Last year, New Era's registrants turned out to vote at a rate of about 86 percent.
The share of young voters, ages 18 to 29, increased from 14 percent of the Colorado electorate in 2008 to 20 percent in 2012, according to New Era.
Following the 2012 presidential election, estimates of the national turnout of young voters -- a demographic that was loyal to Democrats in key swing states, like Colorado -- was about 51 percent.
Julia Harrington, a CU senior and legislative affairs director for the CU Student Government, said she sees the bill as a benefit for young voters.
While in high school, she volunteered with animal shelters and for a math and science initiative that worked with middle school students. Eager to expand her civic participation, she said she registered to vote as soon as she turned 18.
But, she said, most students don't register until there is a presidential election coming up.
"I think this bill would be an excellent resource for students and youth to become engaged earlier and know early on that they're a part of the political process," she said.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or firstname.lastname@example.org.