Should youth be eligible to register to vote even if they aren’t yet old enough to cast a ballot? That’s an issue to be determined in the 2021 General Assembly session.
Legislation patroned by Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington-Fairfax) would permit those age 16 and 17 to “pre-register” to vote. Anyone pre-registered would automatically be registered to vote in Virginia upon turning 18.
Lopez’s measure was considered by a House of Delegates subcommittee earlier this year during the 2020 session, but was “continued” (held over) until the 2021 session. It has been assigned to the House Committee on Privileges and Elections.
Virginia’s minimum voting age of 18 has been in place since the early 1970s, although in recent years there have been several efforts to lower it further. Efforts have been largely on the Democratic side, perhaps for reasons other than partisanship but also, presumably, because they assume younger voters are more likely to vote Democratic.
Virginia law currently offers one exception to the minimum age of 18 for voting in elections. If a state resident is 17 years old but will turn 18 before the next general election, he or she can vote in state-run primaries to select candidates for that general election.
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