The following testimony was delivered to the Joint Committee on Election Laws on Wednesday, January 22, 2020.
Chairman Finegold, Chairman Lawn, and Members of the Joint Committee on Election Laws,
My name is Sharon Solomon, and I am the Young Democrats of America National Committeeperson for the Young Democrats of Massachusetts (YDMA). YDMA would like to go on record in support of H.720/S.389: An Act ensuring municipal participation of the widest eligible range, the EMPOWER Act.
Last legislative session, Massachusetts created a civics requirement for our high school students, a recognition that a strong democracy depends on informed and engaged citizens.
The best way to learn is by doing. High school students understand this and are advocating for legislation to allow cities and towns to lower the local voting age to 16 or 17 for municipal elections. Our earliest voting experiences have a major impact on whether or not we become reliable voters throughout life. Allowing engaged 16 and 17 year-olds to participate in municipal elections helps instill a strong sense of civic engagement early, creating lifetime voters.
The EMPOWER Act is not only about giving opportunities to 16 and 17 year-olds. It is about giving municipalities the ability to pass their own laws. If cities and towns want to make their elections more inclusive and to give students the valuable learning experience of participating in an election, they should be able to.
Several cities and towns have also passed such home rule petitions, showing a growing momentum behind this new front in strengthening our democracy. Passing the EMPOWER Act will help keep that momentum going, enabling other cities and towns to follow.
We urge you to swiftly give a favorable report to H.720/S.389.