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Northampton City Council backs lowering voting age to 16 in municipal elections

  • Holly Hargraves, left, and Wayne Williams Hargraves walk out of Ward 2 precincts A and B after voting at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School Thursday, July 7, 2016 in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO



@BeraDunau
Sunday, July 15, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — The Northampton City Council on Thursday unanimously approved a resolution in support of lowering the voting age to 16 in municipal elections.

“It wasn’t a surprise,” Northampton City Council President Ryan O’Donnell said of the 9-0 vote. The council is expected to take a second and final vote on the resolution later this month.

At-Large City Councilor William H. Dwight, who is co-sponsoring the resolution with the Youth Commission, said he was pleased that so many councilors gave strong statements in support of it.

O’Donnell said that there is a new push to bring young people into the political process, something he described as a “healthy instinct.”

After a second vote on the resolution, O’Donnell said the next step for the youth voting movement in the city will be for the City Council to draft a home-rule petition to the Massachusetts Legislature, as outlined in the resolution.

“Cities like Northampton can be laboratories … for the state,” O’Donnell said. “This is an experiment.”

O’Donnell said that such a petition could also include allowing non-citizens to vote in municipal elections, something Mayor David Narkewicz has brought up, as well as other charter changes. O’Donnell also said that he’s interested in the city adopting instant runoff voting.

Dwight also expressed support for including youth voting in a wider charter reform package. However, he said that such a home-rule petition wouldn’t be put forward until next year, when Northampton will have representation at the State House.

“We’re in the unique situation of being completely unrepresented until January,” he said, of the vacant House and Senate seats covering Northampton.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com