In Massachusetts, two best friends made headway in the push to lower the voting age. Aaron Nelson and Max Carr passed articles in their hometowns of Ashfield and Shelburne, to lower the voting age to 16 for local elections. Carr has made a website explaining how lowering the voting age works. Their House of Representatives members have now introduced bills to allow these towns to lower the voting age. The bills are currently awaiting a public hearing before representatives vote on them.
We asked Max Carr a few questions about his project.
How are your efforts going? What stage of the process are you on right now?
Our efforts are going great. At this point we are finished with town meetings, and the three towns that have voted for this have sent petitions to their representatives in the Legislature. These representatives have now introduced bills in the House of Representatives that will allow their towns to lower their voting age. These bills have been referred to the Elections Committee and a public hearing will be held before they are voted on. If the bills pass, each town will make a final vote to amend their by-laws to allow sixteen-year-olds to vote.
What was your inspiration to try and lower the voting age to 16?
Mainly we were inspired by the very low turnout among young voters in recent elections. Young people will be affected most by many decisions made by our leaders, so we believe it is important that their voices are heard. By lowering the voting age we aim to allow citizens to develop voting habits at a young age, turning them into consistent voters throughout their lives.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle to your project?
Honestly, we have not run into many major obstacles so far, most people we talked to in our towns seem to be supportive of this. The hardest part now will be getting our bills through the legislature. We plan to spend a day in Boston talking to our representatives to convince them of the importance of this issue.
If you were completely successful in lowering the MA or even the US voting age, would this be enough to achieve your goal on this issue? Or is lowering the voting age only a step towards some larger goal that would require many projects like yours?
Lowering the voting age is just one of many ways we can increase turnout among young people and create a more educated electorate. Other projects that could have similar benefits would be efforts to expand civics education in our schools, make absentee voting easier, or eliminate the electoral college. With the right election reform policy we can ensure that our leaders are accountable to their constituents, lowering the voting age is only the start of this.
Your website has a form to fill out in the “Get Involved” section. What kinds of things would people be able to do to get involved? Is there any way non-Massachusetts residents can help?
We hope to get people in other towns and cities to push for the same change in their community. While we are focusing on Massachusetts right now, we would be glad to assist residents in other states in lowering their voting age. Many other towns in New England outside of Massachusetts have an “open town meeting” form of government, so the process will likely be very similar to ours.