Miami – A new federal law will make it a little easier for young people to register to vote.

The High School Voter Empowerment Act, which was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Miami) and U.S. Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-California), would allow public high schools to be used as voter registration sites, hoping to boost young people’s voting participation and civic engagement.

Students are allowed to register to vote before they turn 18 years old.

With the upcoming president election, and races for seats in Congress, the U.S. Senate, the Florida Legislature, and local counties and cities up for grabs, the bill was designed to encourage more young people to register to vote.

Their votes can make a difference this year, especially in close races such as the anticipated rematch between President Biden and former president Donald Trump in November.

Despite Trump’s legal problems, polls tend to show them in a tight contest as they spar over abortion rights, the war in Israel which has led to college students protests around the country, and the economy.

In addition, Trump has openly threatened to move the country in the direction of one-man rule if elected.

In contrast, Wilson, a seven-term congresswoman, said the U.S. must protect democracy, and voting is the biggest part of the Republic.

“My generation does not have all the answers, and it’s critical for the future of our democracy that we empower our youth and give them the resources they need to raise their voices,” Wilson said.

“Elections are the bedrock of our democracy. I learned that when I was a child because my father was a civil rights leader in Miami-Dade County, and even when the Ku Klux Klan threatened our family, he persisted.”

Butler said bringing voter registration sites to high schools increases the chances of getting young people to vote.

“One of the greatest barriers to voting is access to the ballot box,” said Butler. “The High School Voter Empowerment Act would get students going to the ballot box by allowing them to register to vote onsite at their high school.”

Wilson and Butler were joined by the leaders of the “Centre for Voters Initiative & Action,” a national coalition of 800-plus high-schoolers across the nation seeking to increase civic engagement among young people.

The new act also allows high schools to work with state election officials to use voting machines to conduct student council or other student government elections.

The Secretary of Education will reimburse school districts for the costs for the voter registration drives.

In 2020, roughly half of eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 29 voted in the presidential election.

Wilson said while voter participation among this demographic was up compared to 2016, younger voters are still disproportionately less likely than older age groups to participate in elections.

Low participation from younger voters is in part due to challenges in accessing the ballot box, including registering to vote. Younger voters often have less flexible school and employment schedules, or lack the financial means to take time off from work.

The bill garnered support from a host of civic rights and voting rights groups including Common Cause (National), California Common Cause, ACLU (National), A. Philip Randolph Institute, End Citizens United, Let America Vote Action Fund, NAACP, National Women’s Political Caucus, National Council of Negro Women, National Council of Jewish Women, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, NextGen America, Progressive Turnout Project, Voters of Tomorrow, The Voters Initiative, The Workers Circle and High School Democrats of America.

“The High School Voter Empowerment Act is a necessary piece of legislation that will propel our democracy forward and will engage young women and men of voting age in our election process,” said Shavon Arline-Bradley, president and CEO of NCNW.

Designating public high schools as voter registration sites will help emphasize the vital role every American plays in the election of our government officials.

“Voting is our civic duty and fundamental right, a right that many have fought, bled and died for so that our voices could be heard through our vote. With this in mind, NCNW will continue to support policies similar to this bill that elevate the process of civic participation.”

The High School Voter Empowerment Act is co-sponsored by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai’i), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

In the House of Representatives, it is cosponsored by Maxwell Frost, Jamie Raskin, Earl Blumenauer, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Raul Grijalva, Ilhan Omar, Sydney KamlagerDove, Shelia Jackson Lee, James Clyburn, Jamaal Bowman, Terri Sewall, Darren Soto, Pramila Jayapal, Shontel Brown, Barbara Lee, and Joe Neguse.

“Young voters and first-time voters often face unnecessary obstacles that stifle their voices at the ballot box,” said Booker. “Educating high school students about civic engagement and designating high schools as voter registration sites will help young people exercise the right to vote and realize the power they hold to shift our nation’s future.”

“Voting is an essential pillar of democracy, but it’s also a learned skill,” said Cardin. “The more we can do to promote the importance of voting among young voters, the more we do to support a thriving and long-lasting democracy. Our nation depends on it.”