NC 'Pre-Registers' More Than 100K Teen Voters

Sep 18, 2012

In the past two years, more than 100,000 16 and 17 year olds in North Carolina have registered to vote. Of course they can't actually cast a ballot until they turn 18, but North Carolina is one of just five states that allows teenagers to "pre-register" and the only state that requires local elections offices to conduct voter registration drives in public high schools.

The non-partisan group Democracy Now North Carolina pushed for the program to counter a history of poor voter participation in North Carolina.

"Many, many families have parents who are not voters and the kids pick that up and it goes on generation after generation," says Democracy Now North Carolina director Bob Hall. "We're trying to break that cycle by having young people recognize that they have a voice. Let's let them sign up and become voters. They may be the first ones in their family."

Hall says about 60,000 youth who "pre-registered" since the law took effect in 2010 have now come of age and will be eligible to vote in November. That's a large enough group to be an attractive target for candidates in tight local races. But they're also a pretty split voting block, with 30 percent identifying as Democrat, 30 percent Republican and nearly 40 percent refusing to identify with any party. 

The state's teenage voter rolls will see another big boost this month -- state law requires all county boards of election to do voter registration drives in public high schools during September.