North Carolina Registration and Education Project
House Bill 1260: Voter Preregistration & Education

Overview:  This bill allows 16 and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote, encourages additional instruction in the social studies curriculum about the importance of registration and voting, and encourages boards of elections to assist registration and preregistration in schools. Most students are 16 when they take civics in high school and when they go to the DMV for a driver’s license, so it’s the ideal time to sign them up as future voters.

Bi-partisan Sponsors:
Representatives Bryant, Cotham, Burr, Burris-Floyd (Primary Sponsors); others: K. Alexander, M. Alexander, Blue, Brubaker, Cleveland, Farmer-Butterfield, Fisher, Glazier, Goodwin, Harrell, Harrison, Holliman, Jackson, Jeffus, Jones, Lucas, Luebke, Mackey, Martin, Mobley, Parmon, Sager, Stevens, Underhill, Weiss, Womble, and Yongue.

How will preregistration enhance civics education and involvement?
  • Students are already required to learn about the voting process; preregistration would make this learning more relevant. North Carolina students are required to take Civics & Economics in the 10th grade to help them “acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to become responsible and effective citizens in an interdependent world.” Voter registration is an essential component of citizenship and complements the current civics curriculum.
  • Preregistration will improve students’ achievement and civic preparation.  The seminal Civic Mission of Schools report (CIRCLE and Carnegie Corporation of NY, 2003) cites several effective approaches to civic education that preregistration helps realize:
  • Provide instruction in government, history, law, and democracy. Formal instruction in these topics increases civic knowledge and contributes to a young person’s tendency to engage in civic activities over the long term. However, schools should avoid teaching only rote facts about dry procedures, which may actually alienate student from politics. Preregistering to vote is linked to instruction in government, history, and law. Moreover, the process enables educators to teach these subjects in an innovative manner.
  • Incorporate discussion of current local, national, and international issues and events into the classroom, particularly those that young people view as important to their lives. When young people have opportunities to discuss current issues in a classroom setting, they tend to have greater interest in politics, more civic knowledge, improved critical thinking and communications skills, and more interest in discussing public affairs out of school. Voter preregistration will facilitate meaningful discussion of public affairs as students begin to think of themselves as future voters.
  • Encourage students’ participation in the democratic processes and procedures. Studies show that simulations in school of voting, legislative deliberation, trials and diplomacy leads to heightened political knowledge and interest. Voter preregistration goes beyond these simulations by involving students in a meaningful democratic process, which will lead to heightened political knowledge and interest.
  • Preregistration fosters respect, responsibility, and citizenship.  Millennial youth, in a digital age, are met with a myriad of competing influences. Promoting responsible and active citizenship among youth is an effective counterbalance to the high rate of disciplinary expulsion and dropout rates throughout North Carolina.
Basic Facts/Background
  • Registration among youth is significantly lower than for other age groups. More than 80% of adult citizens over 40 are registered, but less than 60% of eligible voters age 18-24 are registered.
  • The DMV/driver’s license offices general more voter registration applications than any other method in North Carolina. Data from DMV forms is more legible than on many other applications. State law allows qualified 16 and 17-year-olds to apply for a driver’s license.
  • Voting, like good driving skills, is habit-forming. Direct experience with the process of voting increases turnout among first time eligible voters (e.g., see “Voting May Be Habit Forming,” by Alan S. Gerber, American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 47, July 2003).
  • North Carolina currently permits 17-year-olds who will be 18 on the day of the general election to register and vote in the preceding primary.
  • 16, 17, and 18-year-olds change addresses less frequently than 19 to 24-year-olds.
  • Many county boards of elections have outreach programs involving schools.  For example, the Wake County Board of Elections, in partnership with the Wake County School Board, conducts a contest and awards a prize to the high school registering the most seniors.
  • Florida and Hawaii have implemented laws to allow 16 and 17 years olds to preregister.
  • Preregistration helps develop accurate, more comprehensive voter registration rolls and will shorten lengthy Same-Day Registration lines.
Elements/Mechanics of the Process
  • The basic registration form would be used, with a new box explaining the preregistration option for 16 and 17-year-olds who will not be 18 by the day of the next general election.
  • The forms would be transmitted electronically by DMV and county boards of elections to the State Board of Elections for data maintenance.
  • When the preregistered teenager becomes old enough to register, they will be automatically registered to vote by the State Board of Elections and the normal verification process for all new registered voters will take place at that time, including verification of the ID number and residential address.
  • The State Board of Elections will develop software for the preregistration of 16 and 17-year-olds.  Based on the State Board of Election’s assessment, this can be done by existing staff with the existing budget.

Endorsing organizations: Democracy North Carolina, Fair Vote NC, Generation Engage, Kids Voting North Carolina, NC Center for Voter Education, NC Civic Education Consortium, Action for Children NC, Common Cause, El Pueblo, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and Traction.

For more information, contact Torrey Dixon, FairVote North Carolina at
919-286-5985 or email him at tdixon(at)

Recent Articles
October 19th 2009
Mandatory Voting? Automatic Registration? How Un-American!
Huffington Post

President of Air America Media, Mark Green, explains why Instant Runoff Voting, Automatic Registration and Mandatory Voting are not only important but could lead to a more democratic society.

September 30th 2009
Can a 17-year-old register to vote? It depends
Ventura County Star

"Most Californians register to vote not because a political cause has touched their heart, but rather because they checked a box on a form at the Department of Motor Vehicles when they received or renewed their driver´┐Żs license."

September 27th 2009
Giving teens a civic voice
The Fayetteville Observer

In January, North Carolina will become the third state to implement FairVote-endorsed youth preregistration.

September 8th 2009
Give voters final say on vacancies

The two legislators proposing a constitutional amendment mandating elections to fill Senate vacancies make their case in the pages of Politico.