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City Council supports lowering voting age for Cambridge’s local elections to 16

A voter cast her vote at a polling station in Cambridge.
A voter cast her vote at a polling station in Cambridge.EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/GETTY IMAGES/FILE 2012

The Cambridge City Council has approved a measure that calls for lowering the voting age in the city to 16 for municipal elections.

At a meeting Monday night, councilors approved sending a home-rule petition to the Legislature. Under current state law, voters must be at least 18.

“I think we are joining a growing course of cities and towns across the country and certainly here in Massachusetts to see how we can lower the voting age for our young people, and how we can get them more involved in the election process,” Vice Mayor Alanna Mallon, who supported the measure, said Tuesday.

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This isn’t the first time Cambridge has pushed to lower the voting age for its residents. In 2002 and 2006, petitions to lower the age to 17 were approved by the council but denied by state lawmakers. A 2001 effort never made it past the council.

“Why is this year different? I think it’s really about the local and national movements and our young people being so politically active because they have so much at stake," Mallon said.

In the past, other Massachusetts cities and towns including Brookline, Concord, Lowell, and Northhampton have sought to lower the voting age for local elections — to no avail.

Timothy J. Toomey, one of two Cambridge councilors to vote against the petition, said 16-year-olds do not have enough life experience to vote — though he praised the passion of local students who made a case for the change.

One of them, Sydney Down, a student at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, told councilors that “lowering the voting age will only further support young people in being civically engaged and responsible citizens,” according to The Harvard Crimson.

At the state level, lawmakers have introduced the Empower Act, which would give municipal governments authority to unilaterally lower the local voting age.

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Democratic US Representative Ayanna Pressley has proposed lowering the federal voting age from 18 to 16.

Mallon said such proposal reflect the younger generation’s growing activism.

“Young people," she said, "are leading the way in many important issues that matter to them, like gun control and climate change, and I think we really should be offering a way for our young people to have a bigger stake in who gets to represent them at the local level.”