Pa. lawmakers push to give primary vote to 17-year-olds

By Associated Press
Published January 22nd 2008 in The Philadelphia Inquirer
FOX CHAPEL, Pa. - State lawmakers are pushing for hearings on a proposal to let 17-year-olds vote in Pennsylvania's primary elections, an idea that began as a civics project by three high school students.

The students want 17-year-olds to be able to vote in the April 22 primary if they will be 18 - old enough to vote - before November's general election.

"If we can pick between those final two candidates, we should be able to help pick who they are," said Julia Hazlet, who developed the project with Fox Chapel Area High School, near Pittsburgh, classmates Doug Weisband and Kevin Pflumm.

Hazlet turns 18 in March, so she'll be old enough to vote in both elections, even if the proposal doesn't become state law.

"In the very beginning, it was just a civics-fair entry," Weisband said. "Day by day, it got more real."

The project won first place in the community project category of the Greater Pittsburgh Student Voices fourth annual civics fair.

The students took their idea to State Rep. Frank Dermody, (D., Allegheny) who is talking about conducting hearings along with state Rep. Richard T. Grucela, (D., Northampton).

"It seems to me to make sense," Dermody said. "I think we ought to err on the side of getting young people involved."

Grucela, who has introduced a bill allowing the age change twice before, said he plans a third try soon and is glad the idea is catching on in the western half of the state. "It helps me a lot," Grucela said.

Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia already allow the practice.