By Bob Katzen
A bill heard by the Election Laws Committee would allow cities and towns to permit people aged 16- and 17-year to vote in their local city and town elections and presidential primaries. Current law requires that voters be 18.
“The benefits to lowering the municipal voting age to 16 or 17 are many and include increasing voter turnout, especially in local elections which are historically low, creating lifelong civic habits and strengthening our representative democracy,” said Geoff Foster, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts.
Supporters noted that studies have shown that 16- and 17-year-olds score evenly with 21-year-olds on questions about political knowledge, tolerance, political efficacy, perceived civic skills and community service.
Many cities and towns over the past few years have approved home rule petitions lowering the voting age to 16 for their municipal elections. But none of the proposals were approved by the Legislature and most were shipped off to a study committee where they died.