Constitutional amendment allowing 17 year-olds to vote going on the ballot

By Connecticut Secretary of the State's Office
Published May 1st 2008 in
Hartford, CT - Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz applauded State Senate lawmakers for giving final, unanimous passage to HJ-21, a resolution that would allow thousands of 17 year-olds to vote in a primary election, so long as they turn 18 before the general election.

The Senate’s 36-0 vote, coupled with overwhelming House approval April 22nd means the measure will go to voters all over Connecticut in November of 2008 as a Constitutional question on the ballot.

“Legislative approval of this resolution is a victory for Democracy,” said Bysiewicz, “This measure will now open up the selection of our president to 10,000 new voters who are eager to become active participants in our political process.”

Bysiewicz added, “The 2008 presidential campaign, especially on the Democratic side, shows more than ever that every vote does count. In this time of economic insecurity, war, and environmental peril, young people clearly want a say in the direction of this country; allowing them a head-start in becoming involved in civic life just makes sense and will go a long way in creating life-long voters.”

House Joint Resolution No. 21 states, “That article fourteenth of the amendments to the Constitution of the State be amended to authorize seventeen-year-old persons who pre-register to vote and who will attain the age of eighteen years on or before the day of a regular election to vote in a primary for such regular election.”

The United States Constitution does not deny 17 year-olds the right to vote. The 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution only states that the right of citizens who are eighteen years of age or older to vote shall not be denied by the United States or by any State on account of age. Taking into account that the Constitution does not bar states from lowering the voting age, some states have done exactly that. In the past several years, nine other states in the nation have passed measures that allow 17 year-olds to vote in primaries so long as they turn 18 by the general election. The states are; Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. Currently, several state legislatures including Arizona, Illinois, and New Hampshire are considering proposals that would allow 17 year-olds to vote in primaries.

State Rep. James Spallone, of Essex, and State Sen. Gayle Slossberg, of Milford were co-sponsors of the resolution and deserves credit for their leadership. “I want to thank Rep. Spallone and Senator Slossberg for their leadership on this,” said Bysiewicz. “Of course, we still have a long way to go before this becomes law and I look forward to working with our elected leaders on both sides of the aisle to win a victory in November for opening up our electoral process for the next generation of voters.”

Last year a similar resolution won wide support in the House but was not raised in the Senate.

Over the last 5 months, more than 55,000 residents have registered to vote. More than 13,000 of the newly registered voters are between the ages of 18 and 29.

The Office of the Secretary of the State maintains an aggressive voter registration program. As part of her effort to increase voter registration in Connecticut, Secretary Bysiewicz this past year registered more than 1,000 high school students.

At the same time, Secretary Bysiewicz also expressed satisfaction that Senate Republican lawmakers decided not to call an amendment to the resolution that would have required citizens show a photo ID in order to vote.

The amendment was filed the night before the Senate was due to take up the resolution to allow 17 year-olds to vote in Presidential primaries, but was pulled following a press conference in which Secretary Bysiewicz joined Senate President Don Williams and state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, as well as representatives of the AARP and the Black and Latino legislative caucus in condemning the measure.

Bysiewicz called the Republican proposal a “cynical and thinly veiled attempt to disenfranchise more than 500,000 voters in Connecticut. This measure is overly burdensome on our most vulnerable citizens – the poor, racial minorities, the disabled and the elderly.”

Bysiewicz said, “There is no voter fraud in Connecticut. Our elections system has strong safeguards already in place to ensure the security and integrity of our voting process. Voting is the most fundamental right in our democracy and requiring voters to show a photo ID is a needless violation of civil rights and an affront to free and fair elections.”