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16-Year-Olds Could Pre-Register To Vote Under New Bill

DENVER (CBS4) - Sixteen-year-olds could get their driver's licenses and register to vote at the same time under a new bill at the state Capitol.

For most teenagers there is nothing more exciting than getting their driver's license, but many are not as excited about registering to vote. The idea behind the bill is to make it easier on them.

Once discounted as apathetic and disengaged, young people are a growing share of the electorate. In Colorado -- 57 percent of registered voters under age 30 turned out in 2012.

"It's not a fluke, it's not an aberration. We've seen young people participating in elections for last three elections on the rise, which is something we haven't really seen in decades," Steve Fenberg with New Era Colorado said.

Fenberg says New Era Colorado registered 35,000 young voters last year.

"Our philosophy, generally, is democracy works better when more people show up," he said.

Fenberg says one way to do that is to pre-register teens.

Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, is behind the bill that would allow 16-year-olds to register when they get their drivers license and automatically be eligible to vote at 18.

"A lot of people talk about when you get your driver's license it's kind of a ticket to freedom. Well, I think the real ticket to freedom is being able to vote," Singer said.

But Republicans like Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, argue adding a third class of voter opens the door to fraud.

"To basically put into rolls people who aren't eligible to vote yet really muddies up the system," Murray said.

"This bill is, to us, represents a very small administrative change that can result in huge impacts when it comes to young people participating in our democracy," Fenberg said.

Right now, 17-year-olds can pre-register in Colorado as long as they turn 18 during an election year.

While Secretary of State Scott Gessler opposes the bill, it does stand a good chance of passing. Several states already have similar laws in place.

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