HARRISBURG – September 24, 2018 – Legislation designed to ease access to the ballot and spur voter pre-registration by 16- and 17-year olds to ensure they are positioned to vote when they turn 18 has been introduced by state Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia).

“Our young people have become more engaged in the political process,” Farnese said.  “They see how their contributions are critical to ensuring fairness in policy and equity in treatment by our government.

“I want to open the doors of voting to our young citizens and allow them greater access.”

Farnese’s bill (Senate Bill 1261) would permit teens who are at least 16-years of age to pre-register to vote.  The state’s voter registration system (SURE) will then automatically register the teen to vote when they are 18.  

“There is no question that our democracy is being challenged by a number of issues,” Farnese said.  “Voting ensures that those we elect are accountable and young voter access and participation is critical.”

Farnese’s bill introduction was timed to coincide with National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday, Sept. 25.

The senator said California uses a voter pre-registration process and has had 100,000 young citizens sign up.  There are 22 states with pre-registration statutes on the books. 

A recent study by TargetSmart indicates that Pennsylvania had the largest increase in voter registration among 18 to 29-year olds in the nation.   Voter registration spiked for this age group following the mass shooting at Parkland High School in Florida.

Farnese said that with the limited number of days left in this year’s session, he does not expect the measure to be voted on this year.  However, he said that he is introducing the bill now to start a dialogue about the proposal in the hope that when it is introduced early next year, it will gain rapid consideration. 

“Given the state of our democracy and the desire for young citizens to engage, I think this is an especially constructive approach to opening up our electoral system,” Farnese said. 

The measure was referred to the Senate’s State Government Committee for consideration.