(BOSTON) – At a hearing held last week by the Joint Committee on Election Laws, legislators and advocates testified on behalf of H.815/S.483, An Act relative to youth voter engagement filed by Representatives Joan Meschino (D-Hull) and Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth). The legislation would allow seventeen year olds who will be eighteen by the general election to vote in the preceding primary, encouraging young people to develop strong voting habits early.
These companion bills are refiles and were supported by dozens of letters by young people from a broad array of communities last session.
This bill was initially introduced to Representative Meschino two summers ago by Samantha Bevins, a Hingham resident headed to Dartmouth this fall. Concerned that she would not have a voice in the primary election to select the party nominee for the presidential election, Samantha proposed filing legislation to make her and other voters in this category automatically eligible to vote in the primary.
Samantha’s research on the legislation revealed that twenty-seven other states and Washington D.C. have enacted this practice. Multiple states expressed support for this practice as statewide ballot measures, including in neighboring Connecticut and Vermont where voters approved the initiative by an average of 72%. The states that have enacted this practice saw increases in voter turnout. For example, in Chicago’s 2014 primaries, seventeen-year-olds turned out at the highest rate of every age group younger than forty-eight.
Samantha has been an extraordinary advocate for the legislation, organizing widespread support for this bill, including a 2020 Boston Globe article. This year and last year, she rallied other teenagers with similar passions to present articulate and effective testimony before the Joint Committee on Election Laws.
“This legislation promotes a model of civic engagement that is critical to foster among our young people, the future of this country,” said Representative Meschino. “Samantha and her peers’ engagement in the legislative process during consecutive legislative sessions demonstrates that these young adults are fully capable and deserving of the chance to engage in the election process.”
“It’s common sense to allow those who will be eighteen years old the day of the general election to have a say in who their choices will be,” said Senator O’Connor. “Samantha has been a great advocate for this policy and has demonstrated yet again exactly why this legislation should move forward. I appreciate all that she and other young people are doing to advocate for this simple change.”
The bill is pending before the Joint Committee on Election Laws, and now awaits action by the committee.