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Secretary Linda McCulloch Supports Lowering the Voting Age for Primary Elections

January 26, 2009

(Helena) – Secretary of State Linda McCulloch today urged lawmakers to support a proposal that would allow 17-year-olds to vote in a primary election, provided that the person will be 18-years-old on or before the subsequent general election.

"One way to ensure Montana elections accurately reflect the will of the people is to make voting accessible to a greater number of Montanans," said McCulloch.

Eighteen states allow 17-year-olds to vote in a primary election; another three states are considering legislation to allow 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote. Research suggests that voting in a preceding election may increase the probability of voting in the next election by as much as 47%.

"Once a voter, always a voter," said McCulloch. "There is no denying that the majority of our habits form when we are young."

In the 2008 general election, 18-24 year-olds represented nearly 10 percent of the total registered electors in Montana. More than 60% of these registered electors successfully filled in their ballots, contributing to the largest voter turnout in the nation since 1968.

"Increasing youth engagement in the elections process is another step in the right direction to maintaining fair, honest and accurate elections in the state of Montana," said McCulloch. "I am committed to continuing Montana's remarkable tradition of consistently having one of the highest voter turnout rates in the nation."

HB 277 is sponsored by Rep. Mike Menahan, (D)-Helena. The bill's first hearing was before the House State Administration Committee.