Changing election eligibility typically requires making changes to the US Constitution. For example, the 1870 passage of the 15th Amendment granted black men the right to vote. Similarly, the 19th and 26th Amendments bestowed rights on women and 18-year-olds in 1920 and 1971, respectively. However, in the absence of a national consensus for altering the Constitution, Democrats have been pushing to extend voting rights to individuals younger than 18 at the municipal and county levels.
On November 30, the Boston City Council voted to approve Docket 0185, granting 16 and 17-year-old residents the right to vote in local municipal elections by a 9-4 vote. The teenagers would be able to vote for candidates for local office and ballot questions in all municipal elections.
Additionally, under the measure, all qualifying 16 and 17-year-olds would automatically be registered to vote in state and federal elections when they turn 18. The Massachusetts state legislature will need to pass the measure before it becomes law.
Boston elects its city council members and mayor on a non-partisan basis. However, since Democrats hold majorities of 36 to 3 in the Senate and 125 to 27 in the House, a similar proportion of representation likely exists in Boston.
If the Massachusetts legislature passes the measure, Boston will join two cities in California and five in Maryland that already allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote.
On the plus side, some advocates claim that granting them rights promotes civic engagement that could increase voter turnout when they reach majority age.