Making Young Voters: The Impact of Preregistration on Youth Turnout

Forthcoming, American Journal of Political Science

64 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2014 Last revised: 28 Jan 2015

Date Written: August 21, 2014


Recent research has cast doubt on the potential for many electoral reforms to increase voter turnout. In this paper 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 the campaign context and supporting institutions may help to determine when and if electoral reforms are effective.

Keywords: preregistration, turnout, youth turnout, electoral reforms, causal inference

Suggested Citation

Holbein, John and Hillygus, D. Sunshine, Making Young Voters: The Impact of Preregistration on Youth Turnout (August 21, 2014). Forthcoming, American Journal of Political Science, Available at SSRN: or

John Holbein (Contact Author)

Brigham Young University ( email )

UT 84602
United States

D. Sunshine Hillygus

Duke University ( email )

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