Mass. lawmakers consider lowering the voting age to 16 in local elections

The bill wouldn't lower the voting age statewide, but instead let cities and towns extend the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds without having to seek permission from the Legislature.

A bucket of stickers awaits voters after they cast a ballots.
A bucket of stickers awaits voters after they cast a ballots. –(Craig Lassig / The Boston Globe)

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts lawmakers are weighing a proposal that would give cities and towns greater leeway in allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in municipal elections.

On Wednesday, the Joint Committee on Election Laws is planning to hold a public hearing at the Statehouse on a number of bills including two that would let “every citizen 16 or 17 years of age, who is a resident in the city or town where he or she claims the right to vote” to be placed on the voting lists for local elections.

The bill wouldn’t lower the voting age statewide, but instead let cities and towns extend the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds without having to seek permission from the Legislature.

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Supporters of a lower voting age include Democratic U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who has proposed lowering the federal voting age from 18 to 16.

Critics argue that 16-year-olds haven’t matured enough to be trusted with the vote.

Individual Massachusetts cities and towns have considered the possibility of allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote.

Another bill up for consideration at Wednesday’s hearing would let Somerville provide voting rights in municipal elections for city residents aged 16 and 17 years old.

Concord has also sought to let 17-year-olds vote in municipal elections.

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