Seventeen-year-old students in Massachusetts are going door-to-door to neighbors and lobbying local politicians, campaigning not a candidate but for their right to vote.
High school students in Lowell, Mass., are pushing for the legal voting age to be lowered from 18 to 17. The push is a response to cuts in local school programs, which the students feel that they should have had a say in.
The teens, with the help of the United Teen Equality Center based in Lowell, organized a citywide campaign to get support for their movement.
“We knocked on something like 3,000 doors,” Carline Kirksey, a 17-year-old high school student, told ABC News. “Some people didn’t like the idea of letting 17-year-olds vote, but we got a lot of people to change their minds.”
The campaign has gotten support from both the Lowell city council and the mayor, Patrick Murphy. The measure would allow 17-year-olds to vote in local Lowell elections, and has already passed a committee in the Massachusetts state legislature. A vote by the full house is still needed before it can then be put to referendum for city residents to vote on it.
The movement started after classes were cut from Lowell High School.
“I felt like I didn’t have a voice in school,” Susan Le, a 17-year-old student, said. “They cut one of my classes, political science, and I couldn’t do anything about it.”
Murphy supported the campaign, saying that it would encourage “life-long voting habits.”
Similar initiatives have been proposed in both Baltimore and Cambridge, Mass., but those were not passed in votes in the state legislature. Massachusetts’ secretary of state wrote a letter to state legislators explaining that the initiative would violate the state’s constitution.
Others have voiced a concern that this movement is an attempt to get more teens to register as Democrats. Murphy disagrees with this concern.
“If people are so worried about 17 year olds changing the dynamics of a local election, perhaps the 75 percent of voters who don’t participate should start voting,” he said.