By Andy Metzger
State House News Service
BOSTON -- The House advanced a bill Wednesday that would grant 17-year-olds in Lowell the right to vote in city elections and made some changes to an online registration and early voting bill that passed last week.
Last session, the move to provide young adults in Lowell with the right to vote in city races a year before they are eligible to vote in state and federal contests received initial approval of the House, but got no further.
The House gave the bill (S 317) initial approval during a sparsely attended pre-Thanksgiving session.
"I'm concerned about that. I don't even know how you could do it with federal and state law," said Rep. George Peterson, a Grafton Republican who was one of two lawmakers in the chamber Wednesday. Peterson said the legislation is going to the Committee on Bills in Third Reading and "my understanding is they're going to take a long, hard look at it."
Lowell youth from the United Teen Equality Center hoping for earlier participation in electoral politics have made a hard push for the bill, lobbying legislators on Beacon Hill several times over the past two years.
The House also re-opened legislation passed last week providing for early voting and online voter registration.
Rep. Paul Donato, a Medford Democrat who presided over the session Wednesday, and Peterson both said the changes corrected some overlapping amendments that "inadvertently" wiped out some Republican-backed studies that were included in the bill.
"One thing knocked out another thing, so when the clerks picked up on that, they worked with the committee to, in essence, redraft it," Peterson said. He said the amendments adopted Wednesday allow for a study into how the state might provide photo identification to people who are indigent.
The House also added to a piece of the bill that called for a study into the efficacy of early voting. An amendment proposed by Rep. David Rogers, D-Cambridge, and adopted by the House called for a task-force study into whether early voting had success in reducing lines and improving turnout as well as "any instance of fraudulent voting or voter impersonation." An amendment adopted Wednesday calls for the task force to also look into pre-registration for 17-year-olds and same-day registration.