High school students from three schools came to the Legislative Office Building Friday to speak in support of a constitutional amendment that would give 17 year olds the right to vote in a primary, if they turn 18 before the general election.
Last year the House passed the measure with 105 votes, but it was 9 votes short of the supermajority needed to pass a constitutional amendment.
Click herefor a reminder of the games played during last year’s House vote. The Senate never took up the measure because if it had and passed it with a simple majority, it would have needed to pass both the House and the Senate two years in a row before it went to the public for a vote, Rep. James Spallone, D-Essex, said.
Spallone said Friday that this year he’s confident both chambers will pass it with the requisite supermajority and it can appear on the ballot in November 2009.
“I do not see this as an issue between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party,” Connor Toole, a 17 year-old student from Stonington High School, said. “Allowing 17 year-olds, who will be 18 by the time of the general election, to vote in primaries is an issue of common sense.” He said young voters often get labeled with a liberal label. “Why not give them a chance to say who they will vote for,” Toole said.
The elephant in the room is the Republican Party’s unstated opposition to the measure, Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, said Friday. She said the Republican Party believes the “Democratic party would benefit more,” from an influx of young liberal voters, when that’s not the case.
John Santoro, of Notre Dame High School in West Haven, said that he’s testified in favor of the amendment for three years in a row. When he started, 6 states had passed legislation allowing 17 year olds to participate in primaries and caucuses. Now there are 18, and Santoro hopes Connecticut will be number 19.
If 17 year olds were able to vote in a primary today, Bysiewicz estimates that 10,000 new voters would register to vote.
The proposed constitutional amendment to allow 17 year olds the right to vote in a primary received a public hearing Friday.