Tufts research group endorses Vote 17

by Pols and Politics

A Tufts University research group is promising to study the impact of allowing 17-year-olds to vote in Lowell, with the hope it will entice other cities and states to consider lowering their voting age, as well.

A representative from the Center For Information & Research On Civic Learning & Engagement at the university hand delivered a letter to House leaders Thursday, urging them to support the “Vote 17” campaign.

In the letter, the group commits to conducting research on the impact of lowering the voting age if a bill working its way through the Legislature passes.

Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, lead researcher for CIRCLE, said Lowell’s diversity has led to low voting rates. Introducing young people to voting while they are still in high school could increase electoral participation for years to come, she said.

“We know that youth that come from immigrant backgrounds, youth that don’t make it into college, youth with lower socioeconomic status all represented in Lowell vote at a much lower rate than other young people who have a more affluent background and go to college,” said Kawashima-Ginsberg “Being able to erase that would mean democratizing political participation in general.”

Students with the Vote 17 campaign meet with Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, a researcher from the Center For Information & Research On Civic Learning & Engagement at Tufts University. PHOTO / GEOFF FOSTER

The United Teen Equality Center, which is spearheading efforts to lower the voting age, has launched an aggressive lobbying campaign in recent weeks to push lawmakers to advance their bill to the House floor. They have held rallies and embarked on a media campaign that has drawn national coverage.

The bill, filed by state Rep. Kevin Murphy, D-Lowell, and backed by the entire Lowell legislative delegation, has won an initial vote of approval in the House and has been referred to the Committee on Bills in Third Reading, the last stop before a floor vote to pass the bill and send it on to the Senate.

The home-rule petition would place a referendum on the city’s November ballot that, if approved, would lower the voting age in city elections from 18 to 17.

Seventeen-year-olds would not be allowed to vote for regional seats, such as technical school committees. They would also be removed from the voting rolls upon their 18th birthday, forcing them to register to vote again.

The bill must pass both the House and Senate and be signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick before the end of the current legislative session on July 31 for the home-rule petition to appear on the November city ballot.

Chris Camire

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