Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler now says 17-year-olds should be allowed to vote in the Feb. 12 primaries as long as they will be 18 by the general election.
|Total voter turnout||46.6%||59.7%|
|18 to 24||19.5%||42.9%|
|25 to 44||37.0%||52.5%|
|45 to 64||56.4%||70.9%|
|65 to 74||65.1%||67.9%|
That used to be Maryland’s policy — until Gansler advised the Maryland State Board of Elections that a December 2006 opinion by the Court of Appeals, which struck down an early voting statute, suggested the practice was illegal.
In the latest advisory opinion, Gansler stood by the first interpretation but said it’s outweighed by the First Amendment rights of the 17-going-on-18-year-olds.
But here’s the question: even if the policy is changed back, how big a difference will it make? A quick look at U.S. Census Bureau statistics indicates that young people don’t, in fact, rock the vote: Although the 18-to-24 age group dramatically increased in voter turnout from the 2002 to 2004 elections, it still remains the lowest in the state.
Will this proposed change make a difference? Or, in the long run, is it not about numbers but about a constitutional right?
Liz Farmer, Legal Affairs Writer