Young activists from Lowell, Massachusetts are pushing the state to lower the voting age to 17. If the measure is passed, they would only be allowed to vote in city elections. Yet the movement has gathered a lot of controversy and supporters. Even though voting age would only be lowered by one year, those opposed worry for immaturity at polls. Those in favor say it will inspire young peole to get involved in their communities, encourage immigrant parents to follow suit, and increase voting turnout, which has fallen below 20%. Pretty much a pathetic number.
High school students, graduates, and Lowell mayor Patrick Murphy met with governor Deval Patrick and various lawmakers on Tuesday to get support for the proposal, called Vote 17.
Mayor Murphy was opposed to the idea at first, but changed his opinion after meeting with the students. He stated, "The local school committee and city council make decisions affecting their education, so they should have a say in who the decision-makers are going to be."
They are hopeful that the measure will pass before July 31, when the legislative session comes to an end.
I wouldn't be too surprised if it was passed. Lowell has a long history as a center of youth rights. The city began as a factory town in the 1800's. Most of the workers in the textile mills were young girls.
They worked an average of 73 hours a week with days stretching from 5:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. Windows were kept shut even in the height of summer and the air was filled with loose bits of cotton and thread. These poor conditions and pay cuts prompted strikes and walk-outs.
The conflict is now viewed as a landmark case in factory workers' and childrens' rights.
I hope that lawmakers pass Votes 17 and the cause can continue to influence youth suffrage movements across the nation and the world. But even if it doesn't pass, the teenagers of Lowell will be carrying on a legacy.