Chances are you never even heard about it, but the Rhode Island state legislature passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Edwin R. Pacheco 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, there are many good reasons for the governor to reconsider his old position.
There are practical benefits to this bill, including a reduction of the strain on election officials who must process the glut of new registrations close to the deadline. By giving young people the chance to register in advance, registration becomes a less frantic, year-round process with the chances for error significantly reduced. A good many people could be spared unnecessary headaches.
What the passage of this bill really signifies, though, is an official welcome from Rhode Island to its newest voters into the democratic process. In signing it, Gov. Carcieri would be telling young people in his state that he encourages their participation, and that he takes seriously the concerns they have and the challenges they face. The governor can send a message to the young people of Rhode Island that he understands that the policies of the state directly effect their lives, and that he welcomes their voice in how those decisions are made.
If you would like to let Gov. Carcieri know you support the bill to allow voter pre-registration, you can call his office at (401) 222-2080.