A first for upcoming R.I. presidential preference primary: 17-year-old voters

A new state law approved in June 2023 lets 17-year-olds vote in primaries as long as they will be 18 by the time of the general election.

This article originally appeared in the Rhode Island Current on February 19, 2024 and was written by Nancy Lavin.  

As of February, more than 720,000 registered voters are listed as active, according to the Rhode Island Secretary of State registration database. How many of those voters are 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the Nov. 5 general election was not available; however, in 2020, 1,200 voters turned 18 after the primary and before the general election, according to Faith Chybowski, a spokesperson for the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s office.

The law change, which took effect Jan. 1, was heralded by proponents as a way to engage young voters and improve turnout in primary races — especially important because more than one-third of state races were uncontested in the 2022 general election, according to Common Cause Rhode Island.

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