Massachusetts Teens Inch Closer to Lowering Voting Age to 17

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(LOWELL, Mass.) -- When Carline Kirksey, 17, went knocking on doors around her hometown of Lowell, Mass., last summer, seeking support for a measure to lower the voting age, many of her neighbors were surprised to learn she wasn't just selling Girl Scout cookies.

Nowadays, Kirksey is walking the halls of the Massachusetts state house, lobbying lawmakers to allow her classmates to step into a voting booth and cast a ballot.

"We knocked on something like 3,000 doors," Kirksey said.  "Some people didn't like the idea of letting 17-year-olds vote, but we got a lot of people to change their minds."

Kirksey and her peers, organized by the United Teen Equality Center, may be on the verge of voting in municipal elections in Lowell.  If successful, they'll be the only 17-year-olds anywhere in the U.S. who can legally cast ballots in a government contest.

But success still could be a long way off.  The measure, backed by the Lowell city council, requires passage in the Massachusetts legislature, and then a referendum by city residents.  If passed, high school seniors will be allowed to vote only in Lowell municipal elections, not in state or federal sweepstakes.

Students in Lowell first started talking about changing the voting age two years ago, following cuts to school programs.  But they were motivated to turn that chatter into a movement when 18 out of 19 city council candidates said they'd support a change to the rules.

With local politicians on their side, including Mayor Patrick Murphy, the town brought the idea to the state legislature to receive a special "home rule" dispensation for the city.

The bill recently passed committee, but still needs a vote by the state's full house.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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