[Cross posted from LiL, but of relevancy to all of Massachusetts. Or really, all of the country…]
When it comes to voters’ rights, we have all heard that in many (often regressive) states, young people, women, and minorities are finding it harder to vote. Whether that’s because of voter ID laws so strict as to cause married women not to pass the legal muster (because they have changed their names, and because their state requires their maiden name on a license not a middle name, which they might have used to register to vote), or getting rid of laws intended to allow college students to vote in the state which they’re attending college, we all know – Republicans seem to side on making it harder to vote, under the guise of preventing practically non-existent voter fraud. And Republicans in states previously subject to the Voter Rights Act are proving why that Act was still so sadly, utterly relevant.
These efforts have attracted the attention of this amazing 12-year-old in North Carolina. Her immediate concern? The dissolution in NC of a voter preregistration law, which allowed high school students aged 16 and up to preregister to vote. Since your 16 and 17 year olds are still firmly in high school (hopefully), you can have voter drives and more impressive educational outreach while they are still young, increasing eventual participation at age 18 and beyond. (This is the argument behind the UTEC’s “Vote 17” movement, to help form the habits of voting early in local elections to increase participation for a lifetime.)
Now that you’ve watched that, think about this: We don’t have youth voter preregistration in Massachusetts. Why not? We’re a progressive state that likes to talk about how great we are with enfranchising voters, but we’re not on the list of states that do this. (We can also talk about our lack of same-day registration, and some other voter enfranchisement laws we could pass to live up to our “progressive” moniker.)
Talk about brain-dead simple things we could do to help young voters get excited to vote. Why, why does Massachusetts not have this sort of law in place? According to this Globe article, it was proposed this year (and in a past session as well, passing the House). It appears that a final bill about voting out of the Joint Committee on Election Laws excludes preregistration. Why our House can pass such a common sense law but it gets stripped out when the Senate gets involved is beyond me.
This would be a great issue on which UTEC could to use its considerable experience with Vote 17…and if they could get youth orgs in other cities and towns on board, imagine what they could do for the 2014 session! We need to lobby our own state Senator Eileen Donoghue to work on this issue on behalf of the future voters of our state!
(Some relevant history on pre-reg bills in the MA legislature: “Why take baby steps for election modernization when we need a giant leap?”, about the Joint Committee on Election laws’ final voting bill in Sept in which “…conspicuously missing are provisions to require post election audits and pre-registration for 16 year olds, two reforms passed by the full House in 2011-2012″…
and “SCOTUS may be rolling back voting rights, but…” about this summer’s lobbying efforts for voting rights, including preregistration.)