BOSTON -- An effort to grant 17-year-old Lowellians the right to vote in city elections took a step forward Thursday by winning approval from the state Senate.

The measure, which youth activists in Lowell have been pursuing for years, was added as an amendment to an election modernization package in the state Senate.

Sponsored by Sen. Eileen Donoghue, D-Lowell, and backed the government accountability organization Common Cause, the amendment grew out of the efforts of the United Teen Equality Center's "Vote 17" campaign.

A post on the Vote 17 Facebook page called the amendment "a major win for Lowell youth."

The idea of lowering the voting age first came up in a UTEC youth-led City Council forum in 2009. The following year, the City Council passed a home-rule petition to Beacon Hill.

Donoghue's amendment passed on a 30-7 vote, with Sen. Harriet Chandler of Worcester abstaining.

Sen. Bruce Tarr, a Gloucester Republican whose district includes Wilmington, voted against the amendment. All other local legislators supported it.

If the full election law packaged earns Gov. Deval Patrick's signature, Lowell residents will vote on whether to allow the city's 17-year-olds to vote.

The House has already approved its version of the election modernization package, which also includes provisions for early voting and upgrades to the voter registration system.

The Senate was still debating the full bill Thursday afternoon.


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