I’m pleased that City Councilor Patrick Murphy’s motion to extend the vote in municipal elections passed last night. Hopefully our legislators will guide the resulting bill through the home rule process on Beacon Hill until it becomes law. To let it languish there would just fuel the same type of youthful distrust of the political system that this motion is intended to address. Gerry Nutter has reported on Councilor Murphy’s reasons for the motion and Mario Boiardi has shared his opinion on the motion on Gerry’s blog.
The reason I support it is mainly logistical. Young people tend to reach age 18 during their senior year in high school, but rarely in time to participate in a November election. This wastes the group dynamics that exist in high school where peer pressure and political activity by friends would increase the likelihood of a young person voting in the fall of senior year. With the voting age at 18, it’s only after high school graduation that most young people become eligible to vote. By then, these young voters are dispersed to college and work and the collective energy of senior year is dissipated.
This proposal is not the end-all of voter apathy, especially since it would only apply to municipal elections. Still, it might just plant the seed in some young people of the habit of voting and to me that’s a good thing.