Opinion

Seventeen and ready to vote

Despite all of the controversy surrounding the presidential elections occurring this year, I am excited to vote for the first time. However, as I do not turn eighteen until October, I was not able to vote in the primary on March 1. I am upset I did not get to have a say in who will be on the ballot in November even though I will be 18 for the general elections, and I want Massachusetts to consider changing its law.

Twenty-one states allow seventeen-year-olds to vote, as long as they will be eighteen by the general elections, according to FairVote. Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, and other states allow seventeen-year-olds to participate in primaries and caucuses, so that they are able to have a say in which candidates are in the general election. These states allow seventeen-year-olds to vote either by state law or by state party rules. For example, in Alaska, Kansas, North Dakota, and Washington, 17-year-old Democrats may caucus, but 17-year-old Republicans cannot participate in their party’s caucus, according to OccasionalPlanet.

I want Massachusetts to follow Illinois’s lead. In 2014, Illinois passed a law casually called “Suffrage at 17,” allowing 3,500 teens to be able to vote.

Bernie Sanders, Democratic candidate for president, recently fought in Ohio for those who will be eighteen for the general election to be able to vote in the primaries. According to CNN, early in March, Sanders’s campaign sued Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, accusing the Republican of quietly changing a law in an effort to block seventeen-year-olds from voting in the state’s presidential primary. Sanders said this was an “unconstitutional attempt to block young voters from casting ballots.” He felt he was losing possible votes, because Sanders is popular with the voters aged 17-29, according to ThinkProgress. Sanders won the battle, with seventeen-year-olds once again allowed to vote in Ohio.

It is important that those who will be eighteen in time for the general election be allowed to vote in the primaries. Because I could not vote, I did not have a say in who will be on the general voting ballot in November. I therefore may not be able to vote for the candidate of my choosing, thus losing my democratic voice in the general election. As Fairvote writes, “Granting voting rights in primaries and caucuses to these 17-year-olds is only fair and will increase their political engagement through participation.” I want Massachusetts to include all those who will be able to vote in the general elections and to give all eligible voters a say in the democratic process.

Image source: Davis County (Utah) Republican Party.