Rhode Island – HB 8022, a bill allowing 16-year-olds who pre-register to vote to be automatically registered when they turn 18, has now passed the Rhode Island Senate. The Bill has moved smoothly through both house of the Rhode Island legislature with its introduction on April 25th and its passage from the senate almost two months later.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau only 58% of people age 18-24 were registered to vote in the 2004 elections. Rhode Island has taken a strong step toward bringing youth voter registration rates in line with those of older generations. Higher registration rates are a crucial factor in achieving greater voter participation and stronger and more representative democracy.
By introducing this legislation Rhode Island has opened the doors of politics to its young people. Politicians often overlook this vital group, but this bill will help young voters make their voices heard. “16-year-old registration is a key step in educating young voters as well as raising the registration rate,” says FairVote’s Rob Richie. “It is necessary to educate young people about their voting rights, and encourage them to participate in civic activities.”
Rhode Island would join Hawaii as the only states to have passed this landmark legislation. The legislation will now go before Governor Donald Carcieri. FairVote urges Governor Carcieri to join the legislature in helping bring new generations into the Rhode Island political process.
More information on the bill can be found at www.fairvote.org/righttovote
To seek comment on these issues call Ryan O’Donnell at (301) 270-4616, or (413) 335-9824 over the weekend.