Dude, Where's My Vote?
I didn't expect to return to this topic so quickly, but there's actually news about lowering the voting age. Young people in Lowell, Massachusetts, are pushing for 17-year-olds to be allowed to vote in local elections, and they made some real progress this week.
This comes after Takoma Park, Maryland, lowered its voting age (again, just for local elections) to 16 for elections last year. When I started writing about this a few years ago it just seemed like fun speculation -- akin to wondering how to refashion the Senate to avoid the massive but firmly entrenched imbalances in the Constitutional scheme. But who knows? Maybe there's going to be a real issue here.
Lowell is not a done deal by any means. The youths need state approval for a local ballot measure in order to get the change. All that has happened so far is that a provision for the modification was included in a state Senate version of an elections bill that will now head to a conference committee. So it would still need to get included in the final bill and signed into law -- and the people of Lowell would have to actually vote for it. I'll be keeping track!
By the way, while the two aforementioned initiatives are both in very Democratic states -- and Takoma Park in particular is extremely liberal -- I don't see any particular reason to believe that either party would receive any predictable advantage from younger teens voting. School-based mock elections have generally mirrored what happens in real elections, and I don't know of anything in the demographics of party identification that would suggest one party or the other would dominate among high-school students. Yes, on a few (but not all) social issues right now, young people are very liberal...but overall, and over time, there doesn't seem to be any predictable effect. I suspect that's one good reason why no one has made younger voting an active cause, but it also suggests that if it does become an active issue (and we're far far away from that happening, notwithstanding these two isolated cases), there's at least a chance that it also wouldn't encounter strong opposition.
As far as I know, no state legislator has yet introduced legislation to lower the voting age. Hey, state legislators! Who is going to mop up the national publicity (well, OK, at least I would run a piece, but I do think it could get some play) available for carrying a youth-vote bill in your state legislature?
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(Jonathan Bernstein covers U.S. politics for Bloomberg View. He is co-editor of "The Making of the Presidential Candidates 2012." Follow him on Twitter at @JBPlainblog.)
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