Brian Peteritas is a GOVERNING contributor.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In an election cycle fraught with restrictive voting laws and partisan litigation, North Carolina may be seeing a huge bounce in young voters thanks to a law passed in 2010. The legislation, which cleared the legislature with bipartisan support, allows young adults to pre-register to vote once they turn 16. The law does not change the actual voting age in the state, which remains the constitutionally mandated age of 18. According to research done by The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement 84 percent of youth that were registered to vote did so in the 2008 election cycle, highlighting the importance of early registration. Seven other states and the District of Columbia have similar pre-registration laws for 16 or 17 year olds, but North Carolina is unique because the legislation requires election officials to hold voter registration drives in high schools throughout the state during the month of September. The drives are run by election officials, teachers and other volunteers so the state does not incur additional costs. The Raleigh News & Observer reports that more than 60,000 teenagers will be eligible to vote as a direct result of the law.