Two of FairVote Rhode Island's legislative goals--youth voter pre-registration and direct elections for vacant US Senate seats--passed the RI House Judiciary Committee with flying colors on March 4, 2009.
H 5094, sponsored by Rep. Christopher Fierro, would ensure that every US Senator from Rhode Island is directly elected. The current law in Rhode Island allows the governor to make an appointment to fill a vacant US Senate seat, and the appointed senator may serve as long as two years before facing the voters. FairVote RI supported a similar measure last year, well before the issue came to capture the public attention in the wake of the Blagojevich scandal. A Constitutional amendment recently introduced by US Sen. Russ Feingold would accomplish the same goal on a national level. H 5094 won unanimous, bipartisan approval from the nine voting members of the Judiciary Committee.
Youth voter pre-registration (H 5005), sponsored by Rep. Edwin Pacheco, would allow 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote in civics class or at the DMV. The bill passed the committee on an 8-1 vote. Pre-registration has been approved by the General Assembly for the last three years.
Everyone should have the right to vote in free and fair elections regardless of who they are or where they live. To that end, FairVote advocates for enshrining an affirmative right to vote in the U.S. Constitution. In pursuit of that ideal, FairVote works to enact policies at the federal, state, and local levels that are consistent with our conviction that voting is not a privilege, but a right.
Rhode Island House Judiciary Approves Pre-Registration, US Senate Vacancy Bills
U.S. Senate Approves D.C. Vote
Votes 61-37, but adds controversial amendment
On Thursday, February 26, the U.S. Senate voted 61 to 37 in favor of the DC House Voting Rights Act (S. 160), but added a controversial amendment eliminating most of the District's strict gun control laws. If enacted into law, the House of Representatives would permanently increase its size to 437 members, from 435. Under the legislation, the District of Columbia's Delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, would receive full voting rights in the U.S. House and Utah would gain another seat because that state is next in line using the 2000 Census. The House is set to take up the measure next week without the gun amendment--any difference between the bills will be reconciled in conference committee. During the 110th Congress, the U.S. House passed the DC Voting Rights Act by a vote of 241 to 177, but the Senate was three votes short of the 60 votes needed for cloture. The bill is expected to pass both chambers and be signed into law by President Obama this year.
[Washington Post Article on Senate Vote]
[Visit our friends at DC Vote]
[More information about the DC House Voting Rights Act of 2009]
[Tell your Senator to Vote "Yes" on S. 160]
[New York Times Editorial]
States Take on Voter Registration Reform
Advance, Universal Registration Among 2009 Legislation
From Maryland to Hawaii, legislatures across the country are taking up legislation to improve our patchwork system of voter registration. Six states (AZ, CA, MI, RI, WA, MD) have introduced legislation that would set a uniform advance voter registration age of 16-years-old. This policy would allow high schools to conduct effective registration drives and educate students about the mechanics of participation. Hawaii has introduced a universal voter registration bill that would ensure anyone who does not want to register affirmatively opts-out and California is considering legislation that would automatically register citizens when applying for a driver's license or filing their state income taxes. New Jersey lawmakers have introduced a bill that changes "motor voter" to an opt-out system, as opposed to the current "opt-in" regime. Connecticut, New Jersey and New York have legislation before them that would expand voter registration opportunities for high school and college students.
[FairVote's 100% Registration Project]
[Rhode Island's Advance Voter Registration Bill]
[Hawaii's Universal Voter Registration Bill]
[California's Automatic Voter Registration Bill]
[New Jersey's Opt-Out Voter Registration Bill]
[New Jersey's High School Voter Registration Bill]