An Excitingly Simple Solution to Youth Turnout, for the Primaries and Beyond

In States, Voting On

A striking feature of last year’s midterm elections was the historically high turnout. Still, only 31 percent of eligible young people cast a ballot — far lower than other age groups, even though millennials are the largest demographic in the country and much of Gen Z is now voting age.

Our research suggests a relatively easy fix: what’s known as same-day registration — allowing for voting and registering on voting days. Drawing on data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey Voter Supplement, we compared similar individuals in states with and without same-day registration laws, and also compared states before and after such laws went into effect.

We found that letting people register and vote on the same day increases turnout among 18- to 24-year-olds by as much as 10 percentage points — a potential difference of millions of votes. This shouldn’t come as a surprise: Young people cite not being registered as the top reason for not voting. And according to a recent estimate, fewer than half under 25 are on the rolls.

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