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Michigan House passes bill to allow voting preregistration for 16, 17 year-olds

LANSING — The Michigan House has passed a bill allowing 16 and 17 year-olds to pre-register to vote in a move that advocates hope will expand civic participation.

The bill passed in a 56-53 party line vote, with all Democrats supporting the measure and all present Republicans voting against it.

Currently, teenagers in Michigan are able to register to vote at the age of 17 years and 6 months, becoming eligible to vote in elections beginning on their 18th birthday.

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Under the bill, 16 and 17 year-old applicants would be allowed to preregister their information before beginning the currently established voter registration process.

Applicants are required to have lived in Michigan for at least 30 days and attest that they live in the township or city in which they’re applying.

Upon turning 17 and 6 months, an applicant would become a registered elector and become eligible to vote in the first election occurring on or after their 18th birthday.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Betsy Coffia, D-Traverse City, who said the measure would increase civic participation and investment in elections.

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“Allowing young people to pre-register to vote — particularly while they’re learning about civics and the democratic process in school — will undoubtedly increase participation in our elections by ensuring when they are legally eligible to vote at 18, they will be all set to become a lifelong voter,” she said in a statement. “Michigan will join a growing list of states that allow voter pre-registration, and I’m proud to see it move to the governor’s desk.”

Currently, 16 states and Washington D.C. allow preregistration beginning at 16, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Rep. Josh Shriver, R-Oxford, spoke against the bill, saying it wouldn’t lead to increased participation in elections.

“If our aim is to increase voter turnout, we need to not force will — we need to fix our system in a way that restores integrity,” he said.

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