Navigation

Rhode Island Legislature Overrides Governor's Veto of Key Registration Reform

The Rhode Island Senate and House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to override a gubernatorial veto of important electoral reform legislation that will allow voter pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds.  Rhode Island now becomes the fifth state, and the fourth in three years, to allow minors to pre-register, a process where their voter registration automatically becomes active upon turning 18. Florida led the recent to move forward with this reform in 2008, with North Carolina and California following in 2009. This reform, while an improvement by itself, is crucially important as part of a greater effort to educate and motivate young people to vote and be politically active.  Commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts, a new report by George Mason University professor Michael McDonald found that voter pre-registration in Hawaii and Florida has a direct impact on youth registration and participation when accompanied by civic education initiatives at schools and government agencies.  It also greatly expands the pool of new driver's license applicants who can register at the department of motor vehicles, since most students get at least a driver's permit before turning 18.

FairVote, a non-partisan think tank devoted to improving American elections, has been a leader in the drive to bring this reform to Rhode Island through the efforts of its state affiliate, FairVote Rhode Island.  Working with lead sponsors Rep. Edwin Pacheco and Sen. Rhoda Perry, the legislation (H 5005/S 0085 of 2009) was easily passed by both houses of the Rhode Island legislature four times with bipartisan support, only to inexplicably face Gov. Donald Carcieri’s veto pen each time. This year, after four tries, the legislature moved forward and overrode the governor's veto.  “We are proud to have helped lay the groundwork for today’s important victory,” said Rob Richie, elections expert and FairVote executive director. “With the good will and strong advocacy provided over the years by FairVote and like-minded reformers—such as the leadership of both houses, Rep. Edwin Pacheco and Sen. Rhoda Perry, and Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis—Rhode Island voters will now have expanded access for its newest voters. This is a good day for democracy in Rhode Island — and the nation.”

Resources:
FairVote - Rhode Island Legislature Overrides Electoral Reform Vetoes
FairVote - Youth Pre-registration Factsheet
Michael McDonald - Voter Preregistration Programs
Progressive States Network - Expand Youth Voting