Analysis

Department of Motor Vehicles Adapts to New Election Law in North Carolina

North Carolina’s Department of Motor Vehicles re-evaluated its "motor voter" policies in light of 2013 legislation that eliminated the state’s pre-registration program for 16- and 17-year-olds. The program allowed teens to register to vote before age 18 and then automatically added them to the rolls once they became eligible. 

Under the program, the DMV could offer voter registration to anyone age 16 or older. After it was eliminated, the department was faced with the challenge of determining who could register. 

In North Carolina, 17-year-olds who will turn 18 before general elections are eligible to vote in primary elections. But because municipal election dates vary across the state, the DMV was not able to build a formula to determine which 17-year-olds were eligible to register.

In response, the Board of Elections decided that the DMV can offer voter registration to all 17-year-olds and that county election officials will be responsible for determining eligibility and notifying ineligible applicants.

The pre-registration program lasted from January 2010 to September 2013. During that time, more than 150,000 teens pre-registered to vote, including 55,291 in 2012 alone. 

The elimination of the program has some North Carolinians worrying that fewer young people will register because 16-year-olds will no longer have the opportunity to do so while getting their first driver's licenses. 

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