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Washington leads nation in voting access for young people

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George Mason University students help their peers register to vote in Washington, D.C. Young people in the "other" Washington, on the west coast, have the best access to the political process in the nation, according to a new survey.

Young people have an easier time voting in Washington State than anywhere else in the country. That’s according to a survey by Rock the Vote, a group that encourages youth to participate in the political process.

It found many state laws mesh with the needs of young voters, but there’s still room for improvement.

While people under 35 might be more likely to line up for new smartphones than at the polls, the folks behind Rock the Vote say it’s not because young people care more about technology than politics. The problem could be the state they’re voting in.

In most of the country, election laws aren’t made for people who move a lot or rely on the Internet for everything from paying bills to working. That's not the case for several policies in Washington. The state got high marks for offering the following conveniences:

  • online registration
  • mail-in ballots
  • absentee voting
  • high school civics requirements (starting in 2016)

Yet even with the top spot in the survey, the state only received a 68 percent. It got dinged for not having same-day registration or automatic sign-up when kids turn 18-years-old. Still, it blew away the lowest scoring states:

  • South Carolina (18%)
  • Virginia (18%)
  • Connecticut (20%)
  • Oklahoma (23%)
  • Tennessee (23%)
  • Alabama (25%)
  • Alaska (26%)
  • Missouri (26%)
  • Massachusetts (28%)
  • Pennsylvania (30%)
  • Rhode Island (30%)

On average, states only scored 41%. Washington was one of just 15 states to get more then 50% of the 21 possible points. Other top states included Oregon and California.
The Seattle Times editorial board reminds us that even though young people in Washington have more access than voters in other states, it doesn't necessarily mean they cast the most ballots. Washington ranked 11th in the nation in youth voter turnout in 2008 and fifth in the 2010 midterm elections. 

Charla joined us in January, 2010 and is excited to be back in Seattle after several years in Washington, DC, where she was a director and producer for NPR. Charla has reported from three continents and several outlets including Marketplace, San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. She has a master of journalism from University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor's degree in architecture from University of Washington.
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