Vote 17 scores a victory in the Senate

By James Ostis

Eileen Donoghue
State Senator Eileen Donoghue

With its storied history, Lowell is known as a city of firsts—and if the hard work of local teenage activists pays off, the city will be making history again by becoming the first city in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to grant 17-year-olds the right to vote in municipal elections.  Last week during negotiations on electoral reforms Senator Eileen Donoghue’s amendment containing the language to the Senate electoral reform package was approved by the Senate. The amended bill still needs to be approved in the House and signed by the governor before it becomes law, but the Senate passage marks the effort’s biggest legislative victory to date.

Carlinee Kirksey and Susan Le
Carlinee Kirksey and Susan Le

Lowell youth organizer Carline Kirksey knows the work continues, “Our story is not finished. We will continue to advocate for this initiative and we have not, and will not give up. We are thankful that Senator Donoghue has continued the effort as well and we look forward to getting our effort included in the Conference Committee’s final version and eventually, signed by the Governor.”

The effort to enfranchise 17-year olds began at a Lowell City Council candidates’ forum in 2009.  The initiative, dubbed Vote 17 and organized by UTEC has had consistent local support and has been a constant presence on Beacon Hill, allowing local youth to experience civic engagement at the highest levels of state government.  Massachusetts Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo remarked in July of 2012, “They [Vote 17 youth] could teach a lesson – and not just to young people – on how to lobby for a bill. They are tough, they are knowledgeable, and they are respectful. They’re great!”

If the bill is approved by the state legislature, the question of granting 17-year-olds the right to participate (in municipal elections only) will be put before the voters of Lowell in the form of a ballot question.

This article appears in the January 24th edition of KhmerPostUSA
Previously: UTEC Street Workers Making a Difference (Khmer)