BOSTON (AP) - With just over two weeks left in the legislative session, advocates for a proposal that could allow 17-year-olds to vote in Lowell municipal elections are stepping up lobbying efforts at the State House.
Lowell high school students and recent graduates and city mayor Patrick Murphy met with state lawmakers and Gov. Deval Patrick on Tuesday afternoon to garner support for the "Vote 17" proposal.
Although the legislation is still in the committee process, supporters say they believe it will soon head to the House floor for consideration. Secretary of State William Galvin's office also worked with the bill's backers to address concerns such as the measure's constitutionality, said Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Galvin.
If the measure passes and is signed by the governor, Lowell residents will have the opportunity to make the final decision on proposal, by voting on the issue in their November ballot.
Supporters of lowering the voting age say it will increase voter turnout for Lowell's municipal elections, which reached just under 20 percent in November 2011. They also argue that lowering the voting age will help engage younger people in elections and will encourage immigrant parents to follow the lead of their children and vote.
Rep. Kevin Murphy, a Lowell Democrat who has been working with advocates to push the proposal through the Legislature, said he was originally opposed to lowering the voting age. Murphy is not related to the mayor.
He said after meeting with the students he had decided to support the measure, however.
"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," he said, adding that he believes it's important to engage young people in politics.
The representative said that while the measure has met roadblocks, he is hopeful it will pass the Legislature and be signed by Patrick before the session ends July 31.
Corinne Plaisir, 17, who is campaigning in favor of the legislation, said the proposal would give 17-year-olds the opportunity to share their voice in the community and weigh in on issues that affect them personally.
Because teenagers are affected by city politics, "that's something they're more passionate about," she said. "They go to school every single day, they're living in their communities every single day."