City of Somerville
Massachusetts

Agenda Item
207393

Requesting approval of a Home Rule Petition to provide legal voting rights in municipal elections for residents aged 16 and 17 years old.

Information

Department:LawSponsors:
Category:Mayor's RequestPurposes:Home Rule Petition

Official Text

To the Honorable Board:

 

I hereby request your consideration and approval a home rule petition to provide legal voting rights in municipal elections for City of Somerville residents aged 16 and 17 years olds.

 

My staff will be available to answer any questions you may have. Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

 

Respectfully,

Joseph A. Curtatone, Mayor

Meeting History

Jan 24, 2019 7:00 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting

Alderman Niedergang stated that he has been talking with the Administration and it is his intention that the Legislative Matters Committee Meeting on February 7 take up this Home Rule Petition, with a presentation by the Clean and Open Elections Task Force.

RESULT:REFERRED FOR RECOMMENDATION
Feb 7, 2019 6:00 PM Video Legislative Matters Committee Committee of the Whole

Felix Brody and Jack Torres, Somerville High School students, are participating in a statewide campaign to lower the voting age for municipal elections. Mr. Brody shared that there are two decision making processes: hot cognition and cold cognition. Hot cognition is quick and reactionary. This is not developed by 16. Cold cognition is already developed at the same level at 16 as is it at 18, and is a more weighed, thoughtful decision-making process. Mr. Torres added that creating a culture of civic engagement is very important and seeing the effects of this engagement at 16 builds a greater faith and trust in government and politics. It also helps develop the long-term habit of voting.

Mr. Brody shared that there are many other municipalities where students are pursuing this right.

Councilor White asked for data to better inform this decision, particularly around the legal implications. He also expressed a desire for a public hearing around this issue. Mr. Brody asked that a public hearing be held at a time that is accessible to high school students. A good time would be after school or on a weekend.

Councilor Davis shared that the engagement of these students and their ability to organize and speak about complex issues makes a strong case for enfranchising this age group. Councilor Mbah noted that, as Parkland demonstrated, young people can teach adults how to lead. Councilor Ballantyne noted a connection to the civic education law that was recently passed.

Councilor Hirsch commented that the census data only list people 18 or older, and younger individuals are considered children, and thus their data remain private, so we would have to resolve the technical question of how to get these individuals added to the voter rolls.

Councilor Ewen-Campen and Councilor Scott requested information about what the opposing argument is. Councilor White responded that one argument is the legal age of majority, but he would also like to hear both sides of the debate. Councilor McLaughlin shared his support regardless of additional information. Chair Niedergang agreed with this sentiment. Councilor White added that taking additional steps, such as a public hearing, will likely help with getting approval from the state legislature. Councilor Clingan agreed that a public hearing would be a good idea. Chair Niedergang acceded, and said that he would schedule it, probably for both an afternoon and evening on the same day, with the understanding the Councilors with day jobs would not be able to attend during the day.

RESULT:KEPT IN COMMITTEE
Apr 4, 2019 3:00 PM Video Legislative Matters Committee Committee Meeting
RESULT:KEPT IN COMMITTEE
Apr 4, 2019 6:00 PM Video Legislative Matters Committee Committee of the Whole
RESULT:KEPT IN COMMITTEE
May 2, 2019 6:00 PM Video Legislative Matters Committee Committee Meeting

Approved

RESULT:APPROVED
May 9, 2019 7:00 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting
RESULT:APPROVED. [UNANIMOUS]
AYES:Stephanie Hirsch, Wilfred N. Mbah, Mary Jo Rossetti, William A. White Jr., Matthew McLaughlin, Jefferson Thomas ("J.T.") Scott, Ben Ewen-Campen, Jesse Clingan, Mark Niedergang, Lance L. Davis, Katjana Ballantyne