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Youth vote could be big in 2008

More young people voted in 2004, and the youth vote could be huge in 2008 if Obama is the Democratic nominee. On a related note, Jessica Kerry writes in the Phoenix about efforts to push pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds in Rhode Island:

Last year, a teen pre-registration bill sponsored by state Representative Ed Pacheco (D-Burrillville) passed overwhelmingly in the Senate and the House before Governor Donald Carcieri vetoed it in July, citing a need to clean up the voter rolls first (Savitsky calls this a “red herring response.”)

On January 10, Pacheco reintroduced the bill in the House with four co-signers, including Republican John Savage. State Senator Rhoda Perry will introduce the bill in the Senate.

Pre-registration for teens is part of a national FairVote campaign, [Ari] Savitsky says, because it would promote a “culture of participation” among younger citizens. Registering 16- and 17-year olds before they are eligible to vote would significantly increase their likelihood of voting later, he says, asserting that more than 80 percent of registered young people voted in the 2004 presidential election. He attributes opposition to the measure to “this obnoxious myth about young people being apathetic.”

Savitsky, who graduated from Brown in 2006, argues that Rhode Island’s new high school civics curriculum and the Division of Motor Vehicles provide the “civic infrastructure … already in place” to bring teenagers into the democratic process by registering them to vote.

Pacheco says Savitsky and FairVote are major assets in the pre-registration battle, doing crucial legwork and reaching out to local media. “Having FairVote brings a new energy to the effort to get this bill through,” he says. “Some of these issues can’t come to fruition until the organized effort is behind them.”

Last month, FairVote Rhode Island published a policy briefing detailing the rationale for its proposal and suggested implementation for the bill, which is supported by almost 20 local organizations, from the Rhode Island AFL-CIO to the Brown College Republicans.

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