‘A significant moment’: City Council votes in support of lowering municipal voting age to 16  

  • Northampton City Hall. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 10/4/2020 1:34:17 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Adele Jordan, 17, and her fellow members of the mayor’s Youth Commission are one step closer to their goal of extending voting rights, after the City Council voted in support of lowering the voting age to 16 for municipal elections. 

“I have firsthand seen how passionate my peers are about local matters,” Jordan said at a meeting Thursday, “and how much they care about improving the Northampton community.”

The recommendation came from the Charter Review Committee, a group that spent nearly a year proposing a number of changes to the city charter, a document that specifies how the city’s municipal government runs. The council approved a series of recommendations from the Charter Review Committee in March and some in September. Those recommendations must be approved by the City Council and Mayor David Narkewicz before moving on to the state Legislature.

“The issues, especially municipal issues, are directly impacting our youth,” said Sam Hopper, vice chair of the Charter Review Committee. “They do take the time to educate themselves even though that’s not a requirement to vote. We wanted to give them an opportunity to have a say.”

Councilors also expressed their support. “I remember I was working at 16, and I was also paying taxes,” said Ward 4 Councilor John Thorpe. 

“For us aging boomers — provided we survive the pandemic — our say means less, our skin in the game is diminished,” said at-large Councilor William Dwight. “Their urgency is amplified by the fact that this is their future. To have people in my age group dictate the terms and conditions they have to endure seems grossly unfair.”

The council also approved two other recommendations: mailing ballots to all registered voters for municipal elections and eliminating the requirement to cite a reason to receive an absentee ballot for municipal elections.

The council vote unanimously to pass both recommendations. “Any opportunity we can give people to participate is one that we should take,” Ward 2 Councilor Karen Foster said. “I know it sounds so simple just go to the polls on Election Day, but it’s not that simple for an awful lot of people.” 

Once approved at the local level, the changes to the city charter can move to the Legislature. 

“There’s obliviously a lot of work still ahead to get this through the Legislature,” said Stanley Moulton, chair of the Charter Review Committee, as he reflected on the approval of the committee’s recommendations, “but I think this is a significant moment.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com. 
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