Universal Voter Registration Legislation For Rhode Island

DATE: 8/3/2005

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.

Full memorandum

Recent Articles
October 19th 2009
Mandatory Voting? Automatic Registration? How Un-American!
Huffington Post

President of Air America Media, Mark Green, explains why Instant Runoff Voting, Automatic Registration and Mandatory Voting are not only important but could lead to a more democratic society.

September 30th 2009
Can a 17-year-old register to vote? It depends
Ventura County Star

"Most Californians register to vote not because a political cause has touched their heart, but rather because they checked a box on a form at the Department of Motor Vehicles when they received or renewed their driver´┐Żs license."

September 27th 2009
Giving teens a civic voice
The Fayetteville Observer

In January, North Carolina will become the third state to implement FairVote-endorsed youth preregistration.

September 8th 2009
Give voters final say on vacancies

The two legislators proposing a constitutional amendment mandating elections to fill Senate vacancies make their case in the pages of Politico.