Why Should You Register to Vote Before You Turn 18?

Did you know you can register to vote at 16? In Oregon, you can register either online or by mail. Illustration by Stella Holt Dupey 

Did you know that in Oregon, you can register to vote as young as 16? Although you won’t receive your first ballot until you turn 18, being registered to vote is a powerful way to stay connected with politics and influence your community. Oregon has one of the highest percentages of registered voters in the country, with 90.2% of Oregonians registered to vote. If you are a citizen of the United States, and you are 16 or older, you can register online or through mail. 

But why should you register to vote before you turn 18? 

Amy Browning, student at Westview High School and Youth Vote Intern for NextUp Oregon (a non-profit organization that does work to register young voters), says that “registering to vote before you are 18 is a great choice because you are making a commitment to yourself to pay attention to civic affairs and be more active within your community.” She also mentions that registering early can relieve the stress of registering in time when an election comes around. She adds that registering early is especially important if your birthday is near an election day, or if you are particularly busy around that time. 

Although many groups like NextUp are working to lower the voting age to 16, the voting age in all states is still 18 years old. Many people think of turning 18 and moving out of their house and graduating high school, but you also gain a great way to make change in your community and have your voice heard. Once you turn 18 and have registered to vote, you will receive a ballot a few weeks before the election (Make sure to update your voter registration if you move or won’t be home for the election), and now you can vote! 

Voting can be a great way to express your passion for certain topics in a way that really matters. Voting can feel very empowering. It truly demonstrates how when many people with shared ideas and interests come together to exercise their role in democracy, change can be made. Isabela Villarreal, Youth Leadership Coordinator at NextUp says, “When we vote, it is a collective action. Whatever issue you care about,  whether that is climate change, healthcare, LGTBQ+ rights, racial justice, or education, it is somewhere on the ballot. But you can’t participate in this process if you aren’t registered to vote!” 

So now you’re convinced to register. What’s next? If you will be 18 or older by the election, you are able to vote! However, don’t forget to register or update your registration status at the latest 21 days before the election.  For this upcoming election, that day would be October 13. It’s easy to forget to register in time, especially for local elections. If you have a driver’s license, permit, or ID, the online voter registration process is very quick and easy. If you don’t have any of those things, don’t fret! You can still print out a paper copy of the form and mail it in to your local elections office. 

Registering online (if you have a DMV number): Head to beregistered.org. This is how NextUp tracks their reach and how many people are registering, and where they’re from. Once you fill out this page, click “Let’s Go!” and you will be redirected to the Secretary of State’s website. Fill out this page. 

Registering through mail (No DMV number): If you don’t have a DMV number, you will need to print out this PDF, fill it out, sign it, and send it to your local elections office. (See map of election offices here: County Elections Officials)

Congratulations! You’ve now learned how to register to vote in Oregon! Remember to register 21 days before the election, or you won’t receive a ballot. Thanks for staying civically engaged in your community! 

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