Vowing not to close the book on the tale they began spinning in 2009, stating “our story is not yet finished,” teen organizers of the Vote 17 movement took to the steps of City Hall Tuesday afternoon.
The goal of the blue and orange clad activists: increase civic engagement by convincing Beacon Hill lawmakers to make Lowell the site of a pilot program allowing 17-year-olds to vote in municipal elections. Supporters say it makes sense to register young people to vote and engage them in local decision-making before they graduate from high school and head off to college, the military or into the workforce.
The movement was dealt a blow on July 31 as the Massachusetts Legislature ended its formal session with H1111, the home rule petition sent to Beacon Hill by the Lowell City Council and filed by state Rep. Kevin Murphy, left stuck in the House Committee on Bills in Third Reading.
Pessimists declared the bill dead. But, says United Teen Equality Center Youth Organizer Geoff Foster who has led the teens on their journey . . . . it’s not dead yet.
Because it is a home rule petition, the bill can be taken up during informal session between now and Dec. 31.
The teens are hoping to meet with House Speaker Robert Deleo (D-Winthrop) in the near future to convince him to give them and Lowell a chance to pilot the idea.
The Center For Information & Research On Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University has offered to study the impact of the law if it is passed in Lowell, providing useable data to evaluate the policy change as other cities, towns and states consider lowering the voting age.
If the bill is approved in the House, it will be sent to the Senate. To become law in Lowell it will need to be voted on at the polls, which could happen as soon at November 2013, making the 2015 election the first in which 17-year-olds would be permitted to cast a ballot in the City Council and School Committee races.
Their push has garnered support from the mayors of Cambridge, Holyoke, Malden, Methuen and Gardner, as well as editorial support from the Springfield Republican, Sentinel and Enterprise of Fitchburg and the Lowell Sun. At home, the have the backing of the Lowell City Council, the city’s Statehouse delegation, Mayor Patrick Murphy, City Manager Bernie Lynch and Police Superintendent Ken Lavallee.
Armed with opinions from Harvard law professor and constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe and the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law stating the proposed law is entirely constitutional, as well as an opinion from City Solicitor Christine O’Connor that the state Constitution and General Laws applied only to state elections, not municipal elections, the young crusaders pleaded their case.
Galvin reversed his position.
They didn’t back down from that fight and they are not backing down from this one.
“We will keep fighting on,” smiled Foster.