Fernandes presses for youth voting rights

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Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, is backing a bill aimed at giving 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote in municipal elections. 

“For too long our leaders and our society have expressed a lack of urgency, and in some cases outright neglected, massive issues that impact us,” Fernandes wrote in an email to The Times. “It has gotten to the point where, for the first time in American history, millennials and the generation coming after them are projected to be financially worse off than their parents — combine that with the existential threat of climate change and gun violence in schools that those generations live through — and those factors contribute to a movement to allow 16- and 17-year-olds the right to have a say in who represents them.”

The bill, H.720, would permit 16- and 17-year-olds to vote on school committee members, selectmen, constables, zoning board of appeals members, and assessors, among other local elected positions. 

“We entrust 16- and 17-year-olds with the right to drive 2,000-pound machines at speeds of over 60 miles an hour,” Fernandes wrote, “so allowing them to check a ballot box is not only relatively harmless, it establishes strong voting habits before leaving home for college or a job.” 

Joined by Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School alumnus Mary Ollen, who is an aide to Fernandes, Fernandes pitched the bill to juniors and seniors at the Performing Arts Center on Sept. 9. 

Fernandes’ regional colleague in the state senate, Julian Cyr, also supports the bill.