Last week the Rhode Island state legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Edwin R. Pacheco (HR 6215) that allows 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, making them automatically eligible once they turn 18. The bill was passed without much fanfare at the last minute before the legislative session ended, but pass it did, and now it is up to Governor Donald Carcieri to sign it into law.
But we have been down this road once before. This time last year, Gov. Carcieri was given the chance to sign this very bill when it passed the legislature, but he instead opted to exercise his veto. Fortunately, as the state legislature has found the wisdom to offer the bill a second time.
This bill, if enacted, will not only save a lot of bureaucratic headaches by spreading out over time the registration of new voters, rather than force officials to deal with a glut of new registrations right before a deadline. Most importantly, it will be a message to the young people of Rhode Island from their government that they understand that the policies of the state directly affect their lives, and that they welcomes their voices in how those decisions are made.
Time is running out. This bill will likely be decided upon very soon, and is in danger of being vetoed literally at any moment. Gov. Carcieri should take this opportunity to welcome young Rhode Islanders into the democratic process. Republican Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida has already signed into law similar legislation allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to register in advance when they receive a driver’s license. If Gov. Crist can do it, why can’t Gov. Carcieri?
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