July 12, 2022

Wyden, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Expand Youth Access to Voting

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden today cosponsored comprehensive legislation to empower the youth vote and enforce the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which enshrined voting rights for American citizens over 18 years of age.

For our democracy to thrive, young voters need to be full participants in elections and have the ability to exercise their Constitutional right to vote. And yet, young voters, particularly youth of color, face unique and growing challenges to voting,” Wyden said. “While Oregon has taken many of these steps to empower young voters, the Youth Voting Rights Act contains crucial provisions that will close the gap in voting rates between younger and older Americans nationwide, and ensure the promises of our Constitution are universally fulfilled.”

The Twenty-Sixth Amendment prohibits the denial of the right to vote on account of age for all citizens over the age of 18. Unfortunately, since the Amendment’s ratification in 1971, young voters historically participate in elections at lower rates than voters in older age groups; their provisional ballots and mail-in ballots are rejected at disproportionate rates; and they routinely face serious obstacles to voter registration and in-person voting.

To eliminate these disparities, the Youth Voting Rights Act would:

  • Empower individuals and government entities to enforce the Twenty-Sixth Amendment.
  • Expand voter registration services at public colleges and universities.
  • Allow young people in every state to pre-register to vote before turning 18.
  • Require institutions of higher education to have on-campus polling places.
  • Prohibit durational residency requirements for all federal elections.
  • Guarantee that states accept student IDs to meet voter-identification requirements.
  • Create a grant program dedicated to youth involvement in elections.
  • Require the federal government to study voter registration, absentee voting, and provisional voting trends by age and race to inform efforts to improve youth involvement in elections.

The bill was led by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., in the Senate and Representative Nikema Williams, D-Ga., in the House. Alongside Wyden, the bill was cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii.

The Youth Voting Rights Act is endorsed by: American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Campaign Legal Center, Demos, League of Women Voters of the United States, End Citizens United / Let America Vote Action Fund, MoveOn, NextGen America, The Andrew Goodman Foundation, ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, When We All Vote, the Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project, Students Learn Students Vote, The Civics Center, and Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy in Higher Education. 

The full text of the bill is here.

A one-page bill summary is here.