October 16, 2023

Senator Warren Reintroduces Youth Voting Rights Act to Empower Young People, Expand Access to Ballot Box

Text of Bill (PDF)

Washington, D.C. — United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) reintroduced the Youth Voting Rights Act of 2023, comprehensive legislation to enforce the Twenty-Sixth Amendment and expand youth access to voting, in the Senate. Representative Nikema Williams (D-Ga.) led the reintroduction of the bill in the House. The bill would ease many of the barriers young people face in voting, including high rates of provisional ballot rejections, lack of accessible polling places, and restrictive residency and voter ID requirements. The bill also ensures federal elections are free from age-based restrictions on access to vote-by-mail.

In the 2022 midterms, young people had the second highest turnout in a midterm election in the past three decades. Despite this enthusiasm, young people continue to face barriers to the ballot box that weaken their voice and influence over electoral politics. Their provisional ballots and mail-in ballots are rejected at disproportionate rates, and they routinely face serious obstacles to voter registration and in-person voting.

“Republicans in state legislatures across this country remain hellbent on passing voter suppression laws that silence youth voices and make it harder for them to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” said Senator Warren. “This bill will ensure young people aren’t left out of the voting process and allows them to have a say in their own future. I’m thrilled to partner with Congresswoman Williams and my colleagues on this effort.” 

“The right to vote—one of our most fundamental, dearly held rights as Americans and the foundation of our democracy—continues to be undermined and attacked by extremist legislators across the United States,” said Senator Markey. “The Youth Voting Rights Act will ensure young Americans in every corner of our nation facing barriers to exercising this essential right are ready to cast their ballots and have their voices heard.”

"If we want our democracy to thrive, we must protect and promote everyone’s right to vote,” said Senator Booker. “This legislation is a crucial step towards increasing youth voter participation by breaking down the barriers that obstruct our young people’s voter registration process and ballot access. Ensuring youth representation and participation in our electoral process will empower them to shape our nation's future and strengthen our democracy."

“Empowering young people to vote is critical to the future of our democracy and we must ensure that they can make their voices heard loud and clear at the ballot box,” said Senator Gillibrand. The Youth Voting Rights Act is a Swiss army knife for youth voting, with provisions for expanded voter registration, more on-campus polling places, a private right of action to enforce the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, and more. I am proud to support this bill and will work with my colleagues to make it law.”

“Voting is a constitutional right and a fundamental aspect of our democracy,” said Senator Hirono. “Voting is a habit and it is important to empower the next generation to become lifelong voters and encourage civic engagement. As we continue to fight against extreme Republicans’ attacks on voting rights, this legislation will help ensure eligible voters, especially young voters, can participate in the democratic process and have their voices heard.”

“Our democracy’s future depends on young voters actively participating in the election process. Unfortunately, young voters, particularly young people of color, face growing obstacles to exercise their Constitutional right to vote,” said Senator Wyden. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Youth Voting Rights Act which would empower young voters and close the gap in voting rates between younger and older Americans nationwide. The promises of our Constitution must be universally fulfilled.”

“The right to vote is the cornerstone of democracy,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “At a moment when voting rights are under attack, we are working to ensure the voices of young people in Rhode Island and across the country are heard.”

Voting is a fundamental right in any democracy, as bipartisan supermajorities in Congress and the states nearly unanimously recognized when the United States adopted the Twenty-Sixth Amendment in the fastest ratification process in American history. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Empower individuals and the government to enforce the Twenty-Sixth Amendment. The bill creates a private right of action to enforce the Twenty-Sixth Amendment and establishes a national standard of review for such lawsuits.
  • Expand voter registration services at public colleges and universities. The bill designates offices at all public institutions of higher education as “voter registration agencies” under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, imposing voter registration obligations on these institutions.
  • Allow young people in every state to pre-register to vote before turning 18. To ensure that young people can vote as soon as they turn 18, the bill requires states to establish pre-registration processes for 16- and 17-year-olds and allows states to expand their processes to youth younger than 16.
  • Require institutions of higher education to have on-campus polling places. The bill ensures the availability of polling places on campuses of institutions of higher education, removing one of the most significant barriers to youth voting access.
  • Prohibit durational residency requirements for all federal elections. The bill extends the Voting Rights Act’s protections against durational residency requirements and absentee voting limitations to all federal elections, not only elections for President and Vice President, and codifies the right to vote from a college domicile.
  • Guarantee that states accept student IDs to meet voter-identification requirements. The bill mandates the acceptance of student IDs to meet state voter-identification requirements in federal elections.
  • Create a grant program dedicated to youth involvement in elections. The bill creates a grant program for states to encourage youth involvement in elections, including through pre-registration, updated civics curricula, and a paid fellowship for young persons to work with state and local officials to support youth civic and political engagement.
  • Gather data on youth voter registration and election participation. The bill requires the federal government to study voter registration, absentee voting, and provisional voting trends by age and race to inform efforts to improve youth involvement in elections.
  • Prevent states from placing age limits on no-excuse vote-by-mail ballots.

This legislation is co-sponsored in the Senate by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernard Sanders (I-V.T.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). 

The bill is endorsed by a wide range of democracy and youth organizations, including: NextGen America, Andrew Goodman Foundation, Demand Justice, League of Women Voters of the United States, Common Cause, American Civil Liberties Union / Democracy Division, End Citizens United / Let America Vote Action Fund, Public Citizen, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Demos, MoveOn, When We All Vote, Fair Elections Center, Students Learn Students Vote Coalition, The Civics Center, Demand Progress, National Council of Jewish Women, Fair Fight Action, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, GALEO Latino Community Development Fund, Sojourners-SojoAction, Spread the Vote, J Street, Jewish Democratic Council of America, Interfaith Alliance, Council on American-Islamic Relations, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, RepresentUs, Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team, People For the American Way, United Church of Christ, Justice and Local Church Ministries, Center for Common Ground, Generation Vote, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, National Wildlife Federation, American Baptist Churches USA, National Baptist Convention Of America, Coalition for the People's Agenda, Deep Center, Georgia Values Action, Common Cause Georgia, National Domestic Workers Alliance, United for Respect, Care in Action, Georgia Conservation Voters, Faith in Public Life Action Fund, (Georgia Stand-Up/c3) We Vote. We Win., Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council/ RWDSU-UFCW, Georgia Coalition for the Peoples Agenda, Progress Georgia, showing up for racial justice, Indivisible Georgia Coalition, #VOTEPROCHOICE, Field Team 6, The Progressive National Baptist Convention, Latino Community Fund (LCF Georgia), Georgia Shift, Alliance of Baptists, New Georgia Project Action Fund, The Workers Circle, Indivisible Marching Buddies of Atlanta, Alliance for Youth Action, The Maiden Group, Voto Latino, JCRC/AJC Detroit, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda, Indivisible GA District 10, March On / Future Coalition, Alabama Values Progress, Progressive Democrats of America, Kansas Appleseed, Appleseed Foundation, Young Democrats of Oklahoma, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote), New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center, Missouri Asian American Youth Foundation, Center of Excellence for Social Justice, Mi Familia Vota, Return My Vote, Arkansas Appleseed Legal Justice Center, People Power United, Dominicanos USA (DUSA), Rise, Equity for All, Inc, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC), Avondale ACTion, Step Up Savannah, Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates, Black Voters Matter Fund, Georgia Stand-Up/We Vote. We Win., Georgia Youth Justice Coalition, 9to5 Action Fund, Women Watch Afrika, NAPAWF, SisterLove, Inc., GAWAND, Secure Elections Network, Campus Vote Project, Georgia Equality, Union for Reform Judaism, Campaign Legal Center, Associated Students of the University of California External Affairs Office, Climate Hawks Vote, National Council of Negro Women, Democracy Matters, Indivisible GA-04, Represent GA Action Network, Hip Hop Caucus, Election@Bard, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, Edima Ufot.

“The enduring strength of our democracy depends on the active engagement of our youth, yet eligible young voters continue to face extensive and unnecessary barriers to the ballot box. The Youth Voting Rights Act is vital to tearing down these obstacles and bringing us closer to a stronger, more inclusive democracy. Eligible young voters have the fundamental right to help shape our collective future through unimpeded participation in the democratic process,” said Xavier Persad, Senior Policy Counsel at the ACLU. 

"The Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF) is rooted in the legacy of the Freedom Summer of 1964 and the Civil Rights Movement. We hold a fervent belief that the full participation of young people in our democracy is fundamental. As we near the 60th anniversary of Freedom Summer, that belief is stronger than ever and why AGF commends Senator Warren and Representative Williams’s introduction of the Youth Voting Rights Act,” said Rashawn Davis, Executive Director for the Andrew Goodman Foundation.

“The Youth Voting Rights Act is the most comprehensive measure introduced by Congress to uphold the promise of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 and outlaws age discrimination in access to the ballot. Fifty Over fifty years ago, the nation came together, nearly unanimously, and across partisan lines to ratify the Amendment in record time. Yet, young people continue to face special burdens to vote due to inaccessible polling locations and voter registration and identification requirements that are out of reach to this protected class. The Act will do what the Twenty-Sixth Amendment intended: encourage youth political participation based on a cross-partisan recognition that young people serve an invaluable role in upholding our democracy.” said Yael Bromberg, Esq., constitutional rights attorney and Twenty-Sixth Amendment legal scholar.

“Democracy is how we work together to solve the pressing issues of our times. When democracy works best, it also secures the future, and the future belongs to young people. Common Cause and our more than 1.5 million supporters and members commend Senator Warren and Representative Williams for introducing the Youth Voting Rights Act, important legislation that enhances opportunity and participation for young people. Common Cause is proud of our history helping to advance the 26th Amendment that lowered the voting age to 18. There is more work to do so that it lives up to its promise of a more empowered, reflective, and representative democracy. The Youth Voting Rights Act is another important step forward in the march toward inclusivity,” said Marilyn Carpinteyro, Interim Co-President for Common Cause. 

“We continue to see undemocratic efforts to disenfranchise young voters, who have the lowest voter turnouts of any age group. We must change that. We applaud Sen. Warren and her colleagues for leading the charge on this important bill to enforce the 26th Amendment and expand access for young people to participate in our democracy,” said Tiffany Muller, President of End Citizens United / Let America Vote Action Fund.

"Voters of all ages, including young voters deserve the right to have their voices heard," said Jessica Jones Capparell, Director of Government Affairs at the League of Women Voters of the United States. “The League of Women Voters of the United States strongly supports legislation that would break down the barriers young voters continue to face when registering to vote or casting a ballot. Our democracy is strongest when every voice is heard, including those of young voters, and we must equip them with the necessary resources to fully participate in the democratic process."

“When the leaders of tomorrow participate in decisions made today, our nation’s future is brighter and everything gets better. By demolishing a wall of anachronistic and absurdly bureaucratic barriers to voting, the Youth Voting Rights Act empowers new voters to step up, engage, and embrace their civic duty. Public Citizen applauds Senator Warren and Rep. Williams for introducing this bill to help heal our ailing democracy,” said Jon Golinger, Democracy Advocate at Public Citizen. 

“Young people across the country are excited to see the reintroduction of the Youth Voting Rights Act, legislation that will expand youth access to voting, build a more representative democracy, and provide comprehensive legislation to enforce the 26th Amendment. Every eligible voter should have access to the ballot box, but right now, young people face too many barriers that hinder our participation in democracy. The largest, most diverse generation in American history needs to have their voices heard and this legislation makes immense progress in our fight for a country that represents the interests of young people.” - Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, President, NextGen America.

Senator Warren is a national leader on efforts to defend our democracy and the sacred right to vote:

  • In July 2023, Senator Warren co-sponsored the Freedom to Vote Act, legislation that would improve access to the ballot for Americans, advance commonsense federal election standards and campaign finance reforms.
  • In June 2023, Senator Warren Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, on the Department's actions to implement President Biden’s executive order on promoting voting access, including efforts to offer voter registration through HealthCare.gov.
  • In July 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Williams introduced the Youth Voting Rights Act, comprehensive legislation to enforce the Twenty-Sixth Amendment and expand youth access to voting. 
  • In June 2022, Senators Warren, Whitehouse, Hirono, Merkley (D-Ore.), Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Luján (D-N.M.) sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra urging him to expand voter registration access on HealthCare.gov.
  • In May 2022, Senators Warren and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) led nine of their colleagues in introducing the Sustaining Our Democracy Act. This legislation would provide $20 billion in mandatory federal funding over the next decade to help states and local governments support election administration, including by training and recruiting nonpartisan poll workers and election officials and increasing access to voting in underserved communities.
  • In January 2022, Senator Warren delivered a speech on the floor of the United States Senate calling on the Senate to end the filibuster and protect voting rights.
  • In October 2021, Senator Warren joined 48 of her Democratic colleagues to introduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.