SPRINGFIELD -- A suburban lawmaker's plan to let 17-year-olds vote in primary elections if they will turn 18 before the November election won preliminary approval Monday.
State Rep. Carol Sente's plan would apply only to elections in even-numbered years, not local elections like the one earlier this month.
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She argues that if young voters are going to vote in a November election, they should get a say in who the candidates are in the primary.
An Illinois House committee approved the proposal unanimously Monday, sending it to the House floor for further debate.
The idea came to Sente via Andrew Conneen, a government teacher at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, who was at Monday's hearing to testify. He said getting voters started early could help them be interested in future elections, and Conneen compared the situation to the NCAA basketball tournament.
"If you fill out a bracket, you're much more likely to be interested in the championship game," Conneen told lawmakers.
Illinois wouldn't be alone if the state allowed 17-year-olds to vote in primaries. Twenty other states already do, and a couple others are weighing the idea.
Under the plan, 17-year-olds would register to vote like anyone else. said Sente, a Vernon Hills Democrat.
Lawmakers on the committee showed no reservations about the plan, but the legislation still has a long way to go before becoming law.
"We're trying to get young voters engaged," said state Rep. Ed Sullivan, a Mundelein Republican.