NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Should 16-year-olds be allowed to vote?

Empower Act would allow cities and towns to lower voting age to 16 or 17

Just last month a bill was entered into Massachusetts state legislation that would lower the local voting age to 16 years old (currently 18 years old). The bill, known as the Empower Act would give cities and towns the right to lower the local voting age to 16 or 17. Presently, if a city or town wants to do so they have to gain approval through the state Legislature, using a process called “the home rule petition process.”

The Empower Act would do away with this process and make it easier for cities and towns to lower the voting age if they wish to do so. This has been noted as a fairly controversial bill with strong opinions coming from both sides. Alyssa Ditamaso, 19, and second semester student here at Northern Essex gives her opinion on the bill: “I don’t think that’s super wise because I don’t think young people are really informed. If they taught politics from a younger age that would keep people informed.”

A common question raised about lowering the voting age is how it would affect the outcome of these elections, to which Ditamaso said, “I don’t think enough people would vote.” A similar opinion came from student Danikza Carrasquillo who simply  said, “It’s a terrible idea.” However, Mariella Mendez a liberal arts: writing major at NECC sees the bill a little differently.

She says, “ I think it might be a good thing. I think it might force them to be more aware of what’s happening. At 16 or 17 I didn’t take the initiative to understand what was happening with the elections because I wasn’t forced to know what was happening. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I decided to get involved with politics. I think elections will affect that age range just as much as they would affect a 21 year old. I think letting them vote might be an okay thing.”

Haverhill State Representative Andy Vargas is in favor of the Empower Act. He reported via Facebook that the Eagle- Tribune newspaper in North Andover has  endorsed the bill as of January 2019, saying, “Thanks to the the Eagle-Tribune for endorsing the #EMPOWERAct, as we seek to boost civic engagement and civil discourse.”