Mass. lawmakers consider lowering voting age to 16

BOSTON (WHDH) - Massachusetts lawmakers may be considering lowering the voting age throughout the Commonwealth to include people as young as 16

Teenagers from around the state packed a State House hearing room Wednesday citing the actions of student activists who pushed for a red flag law after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. These teens making a major push to lower the voting age in local elections.

“Sixteen-year-olds can drive, they can pay taxes, they can work and they should have a right to say what’s going on in their communities and have a voice,” 19-year-old Tristan Grieve said.

The so-called Empower Act would give cities and towns the option to lower the voting age to 16.

The bill would not apply to federal elections.

Teens say they deserve the chance to be able to shape school budgets or vote for city council.

Haverhill High School Junior Maura Cueno said, “The candidates would probably adjust their platform to be more focused toward younger generations or all generations so everyone can have a voice and be represented.”

One state senator questioned whether allowing the teenagers to vote would also qualify them to run for office.

Still, at this hearing, nobody spoke out against the bill.

“You don’t have to agree with lowering the voting age to support this bill.” the bill’s sponsor Representative Andy Vargas said.

Vargas continued to say that this bill at the core is about giving cities and towns local control.

“There’s always folks that say, ‘Hey, this 16-year-old is a knucklehead,” he said. “I know plenty of 15, 16 and 40-year-olds that are knuckleheads. The core of this issue is whether or not municipalities should be able to engage in this discussion.”

Some communities — including Concord and Somerville — support lower voting ages, however, they have not yet received state approval.

At the federal level, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley has introduced a bill to lower the voting age restriction for federal elections from 18 to 16.

 

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