TO: ROB RICHIE, DAVID MOON
FROM: LEO GOLDBARD
SUBJECT: UNIVERSAL VOTER REGISTRATION LEGISLATION FOR RHODE ISLAND
QUESTION: Do the Federal government, Rhode Island state government, and Rhode Island local institutions each have the power to implement a universal voter registration regime either directly or as a secondary school requirement within their respective jurisdictions and would such a regime violate any federal or state constitutional guarantees?
SHORT ANSWER: The Federal government is empowered to implement a universal voter registration regime for federal elections and Rhode Island state government and school committees are each empowered to implement universal voter registration regimes for state-wide elections within their jurisdictions. A universal voter registration regime would be open to challenge under both the United States and Rhode Island Constitutions on compelled speech, free exercise, substantive due process, equal protection, involuntary servitude, and privacy grounds. However, of these challenges only a narrow free exercise claim alone under the Rhode Island Constitution or combined with a substantive due process claim under the United States Constitution has any real chance of success. In order to forestall this possible challenge, an opt-out provision based on sincere religious belief possibly should be included in any universal voter registration implementing legislation.