DENVER (CBS4)– A state law that allows 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote could become a model for the nation before the 2020 election. Colorado Congressman Joe Neguse helped pass the law here and has now introduced a federal version of it called “Next Generation Votes.”

Congressman Joe Neguse
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“Ultimately our democracy is better when more people are participating, when there are more voices in the mix, irrespective of where folks might land on the political ladder, whether they’re republicans or democrats, we just want more people to vote,” said Neguse, a Democrat representing Boulder.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Neguse began turning out the vote long before he ran for federal office. As a college graduate, he co-founded New Era Colorado – one of the most successful young voter engagement groups in the country.

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“Much of the work that New Era did in those early days was spent around registering more young voters.”

In 2013, the group convinced the state legislation to pass a law allowing 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote when they get their drivers license.

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“And so that they know when they’re 18 and things are perhaps getting lost in the shuffle as they transition into college and so forth, they are automatically registered and don’t have to worry about taking that extra step. And we know, empirical studies show that they are more likely to vote for the rest of their lives if they pre-register to vote.”

CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd interviews Congressman Joe Neguse (credit: CBS)

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office says nearly 156,000 16-and-17-year-olds in Colorado have pre-registered to vote since the law took effect here four years ago. Last year, more than 60 percent of young people voted in Colorado compared to about 30 percent nationwide.

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“I’d like to see other states be able to benefit from these great bi-partisan laws that we’ve enacted in Colorado,” says Neguse, “Using Colorado as the model and exporting our way of approaching these issues to the rest of the country.”

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He says Colorado was the first state in the country to pass the law. Thirteen other states have since joined. If the federal legislation passes, it would take effect January 2020.

Shaun Boyd