Bills would allow some 17-year-olds to vote in primaries

Bills would allow some 17-year-olds to vote in primaries
Hundreds of thousands sent in their ballots for Hawaii's first mail-in primary election. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii state Legislature has advanced two bills that would allow some 17-year-olds the right to vote by next year’s primary election.

The bills passed the state House Government Reform Committee on Wednesday. The bills have a final state House committee to advance beyond before they are presented before the full House.

The new bills would allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if their 18th birthday falls between the primary election and general election.

Under current state law, only those 18 or older are allowed to vote.

In 2022, the primary election takes place on Aug. 13 and the general election on Nov. 8.

Democratic state Sen. Les Ihara Jr., who introduced the proposed bills, said because the state very often votes for Democrats, having a say in the primaries is important for equity.

“The fairness issue is by the time they get to vote in the general elections, the major choices were already made from the primary elections,” said Ihara, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Across the U.S., 19 other states allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections, the newspaper reported.

Earlier this legislative session, similar bills were introduced to pull the voting age down to 16, but the measures failed to gain traction.

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