Making Young Voters: The Impact of Preregistration on Youth Turnout



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© 2016 by the Midwest Political Science Association.Recent research has cast doubt on the potential for various electoral reforms to increase voter turnout. In this article, we examine the effectiveness of preregistration laws, which allow young citizens to register before being eligible to vote. We use two empirical approaches to evaluate the impact of preregistration on youth turnout. First, we implement difference-in-difference and lag models to bracket the causal effect of preregistration implementation using the 2000-2012 Current Population Survey. Second, focusing on the state of Florida, we leverage a discontinuity based on date of birth to estimate the effect of increased preregistration exposure on the turnout of young registrants. In both approaches, we find preregistration increases voter turnout, with equal effectiveness for various subgroups in the electorate. More broadly, observed patterns suggest that campaign context and supporting institutions may help to determine when and if electoral reforms are effective.






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Holbein, JB, and DS Hillygus (2016). Making Young Voters: The Impact of Preregistration on Youth Turnout. American Journal of Political Science, 60(2). pp. 364–382. 10.1111/ajps.12177 Retrieved from

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D. Sunshine Hillygus

Professor of Political Science

Professor Hillygus has published widely on the topics of American political behavior, campaigns and elections, survey methods, public opinion, and information technology and politics.  She is co-author of Making Young Voters:  Converting Civic Attitudes into Civic Action (Cambridge University Press, 2020), The Persuadable Voter: Wedge Issues in Political Campaigns (Princeton University Press, 2008) and The Hard Count: The Social and Political Challenges of the 2000 Census (Russell Sage Foundation, 2006). She is director of the Duke Initiative on Survey Methodology ( and co-director of the Polarization Lab (

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