The information below concerns the 2008 version of this legislation. Identical legislation will be introduced again in 2009.
Ensuring that first time voters can vote in primary elections encourages greater general election participation, and jump-starts the process of civic engagement. In S 2551 and H 7104, sponsored by State Sen. Juan Pichardo and State Rep. Patrick O'Neill, respectively, we have an opportunity to clarify the law, energize young voters and protect voting rights.
Right now, 17 year olds who will be 18 by the general election can register to vote. But these first-time voters might be blocked from voting in the primary election. 19 states and state parties currently allow some 17 year olds to vote in primary elections, and with good reason: Ensuring them a full vote is good for candidates, parties and democracy.
This reform has the support of Common Cause RI, UFCW Local 328, the Rhode Island Young Democrats and Rhode Island Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, who wrote to the Senate Judiciary committee with this letter of support.
Check out testimony by FairVote RI Director Ari Savitzky, and testimony by Jen McGill, 17, of Pawtucket to members of the House Judiciary committee on this youth engagement reform. Also, check out the one pager submitted by FairVote RI to the Senate judiciary committee.