Giving 17 year olds the right to vote

“Just wondering if you’d be interested in tagging along to the statehouse on April 13th to attend he Joint Committee on Election Laws’ public hearing on the teen-led initiative to Lower the Voting Age to 17 in Lowell’s muni elections.”

Above is a message I received from a proponent of lowering the voting age to 17 for Lowell city elections. I can’t make it to the State House for the Public Hearing, but I do endorse the proposal. I do that for practical reasons.

For most of us, voting is a habit that’s passed down from generation to generation. If your parents made voting a priority, then it’s likely that you will make voting a priority. But what of the many kids whose parents don’t vote. How are they likely to become engaged in the electoral process? Through peer pressure. If their friends make voting a priority, they’ll make voting a priority, as well.

Right now, 18 year olds have the vote, but by the time the Fall city election rolls around, many new 18 year olds are off to college or at least scattered from most of their friends from high school and the neighborhood. But 17 year olds are most likely seniors in high school where peer pressure is at its maximum. A small group of motivated kids could potentially incite a substantial number of their classmates to vote. And when you’ve voted once, you’re more likely to do it again and soon it becomes a habit. That’s why I support this proposal.

6 Responses to Giving 17 year olds the right to vote

  1. C R Krieger says:

    I thought that lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 was a “stunt” on the part of the Nixon Administration to deal with problems with the draft and the war in Viet-nam.  Being an old stick in the mud, I opposed it.  Voting is very important and we have picked 21 as the age at which people are responsible enough for things like drinking, buying a gun or getting a commission in the military.  Borrowing from the phrase back in the day, if they are old enough to vote they should be old enough to drink.  But, what is done is done.

    That said, Dick’s point about habits is the one reason I have heard that makes 17 a good age for voting in municipal elections.  I am now moving to the “support” column.

    I do wonder how they will segregate out the 17 year olds so they don’t vote in state wide or national elections.

    Regards  —  Cliff

  2. Joe S says:

    “I do wonder how they will segregate out the 17 year olds so they don’t vote in state wide or national elections.”

    One more column entry into the election commission’s voter data base should do the trick as long as the municipal ballot doesn’t include State or Federal races or questions. That additional entry would determine whether the 17-year old would be included on the printout used to pass out the ballots.

  3. Righty Bulger says:

    Where there’s a will, there’s a way. If an 18 year old really wants to vote in a municipal election, he can get an absentee ballot and vote. To me the going away to college excuse for not voting is very flimsy.

    There’s a bigger agenda at play here in giving 17 year olds voting rights.

  4. DickH says:

    Others have raised the question about 17 year olds and state elections since the 17 year olds would only be eligible to vote in the city election and it’s a logical question, but it should be very easy to deal with. You do that at the registration process, not the polling location.

    One way would be to make a 17 year old “registration window” from January 1 to September 1 of city election years only. This is a city election year so someone turning 17 today could register to vote. When the election arrived in November (I’m assuming no municipal primary), that person would be OK to vote. But if the person turned 17 next April 6 (April 6, 2012) he would not be able to register until the following January 1. That way, he wouldn’t be registered in November 2012 for the state election. Once you’re old enough to vote in a city election (i.e., 17) you’re by definition old enough to vote in the next year’s state election because by then you would be 18.

  5. C R Krieger says:

    I think Dick’s plan only works if Hillary stays as SecState and thus John F Kerry doesn’t fill that office. Otherwise, there would be a special election, in which Gail Huff would also run against Martha Coakley.

    Regards  —  Cliff