Young voters could make a major difference in next year’s U.S. presidential election. But only if they are registered to vote. And that’s not always easy.

By Emefa Agawu

By October, 22-year-old Matt was settling into New York just fine. He was two months into a job and was slowly furnishing the East Village apartment he rents with two close friends from college.

Seeing posts on social media about 2016 presidential candidates and catching up with friends who lived in states that had 2015 local elections reminded him that he wasn’t entirely settled in just yet. He wasn’t registered to vote in New York.

He cracked open his laptop to take care of it immediately but quickly discovered that without a New York driver’s license, he could not register to vote online.

He would have to download, print and mail in a form, which in this day and age seemed a burden.

“I would literally have to Google ‘How to mail a letter,'” quipped Matt, who grew up with email.

Politicians and pundits are eager to uncover the voting patterns of millennials, who this summer became the largest group in the U.S. population. Aware of millennials’ potential electoral clout, presidential candidates have flocked to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and more to inspire potential voters.

But do candidates realize that in our consumer-focused economy, young people expect voter registration to be simple and efficient — a click or even an app tap away?

As of October, 26 states and the District of Columbia offered some form of online voter registration, meaning voters in nearly one half of the states can’t sign up online.

Even states that permit online registration require a driver’s license or some other state-issued identification card. That leaves behind many millennials, who drive less than other age groups.

In the above video, Abby Duker, a 19-year-old student at Harvard, wonders where she will vote for the 2016 election.

Joseph Phelan, 16, won’t be old enough to vote in 2016. But he’s already thinking about the voting registration process, as he tells us in the audio clip below.


emefaEmefa Agawu is a research assistant with the Empirical Studies of Conflict (ESOC) Project at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. She graduated from Yale with a degree in Political Science, where she focused on global politics. She has worked or studied in the United States, the UK and Ghana.

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