RICHMOND Virginia’s Senate is expected to approve a bill today that would require young men to register with the Selective Service when they obtain their driver’s license or a learner’s permit even if they have not yet turned 18.
“We only have 74 percent of all 18-year-old males registering with the Selective Service,” said Delegate M. Kirkland Cox, Colonial Heights Republican and sponsor of the bill.
“The next time we have a draft, we want it to be as fair as possible. Ninety-nine percent in the pool would be fair; 74 percent is not,” he said.
Mr. Cox said he began thinking about such a bill after the September 11 attacks and the beginning of the war on terrorism.
The legislation passed the House last month, and observers noted likely approval in the Senate.
The bill would require all males who apply for a driver’s license to check a box that registers them with the Selective Service. Those younger than 18 would be required to have a parent’s signature. Their names would not be added to any draft list until their 18th birthdays.
Delegate John Rollison III, Prince William Republican, called the bill unfair. “Requiring a 15-year-old to get a parent’s permission, and not allowing them to get their driver’s license, punishes them if they don’t want to register,” he said.
Sen. W. Henry Maxwell, Newport News Democrat, one of three members of the Senate Transportation Committee to vote against the bill in committee last week, agreed with Mr. Rollison.
“I am as supportive of getting people for the draft as anyone,” Mr. Maxwell said. “But I think it’s the wrong approach. A driver’s license may be necessary to support a family or to go to work and the more I thought about it, the more it seems punitive to me.”
Federal law requires all males, regardless of physical ability or religious convictions, to register with the Selective Service when they turn 18. Failure to register could mean a $250,000 fine and/or five years in prison. Should their names be called in a national draft, they would have an opportunity to present evidence as to why they could not serve.
For example, both a quadriplegic and a conscientious objector must register, but were their names called, they could go before a board and ask to be excused.
If the Senate passes the measure, it goes to the desk of Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner, who has not indicated whether or not he would sign it.