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updated: 4/17/2013 5:44 PM

House says OK to 17-year-olds voting in primaries

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  • Carol Sente

      Carol Sente

 
 

SPRINGFIELD -- For the first time in Illinois, some 17-year-olds would be allowed to vote in primary elections under a plan approved by the state House Wednesday.

The proposal from state Rep. Carol Sente, a Vernon Hills Democrat, says a 17-year-old could vote on primary day in the spring if he or she will turn 18 by the November election.

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After all, she argues, voters should get to pick the party candidates they'll eventually be choosing from. And getting voters started early could encourage lifelong habits.

"Many high school students want to get engaged in the election process," Sente said.

The Illinois House agreed by a 95-22 vote.

Among the critics was state Rep. Dennis Reboletti, an Elmhurst Republican, who noted that just the day before the House voted to keep most 17-year-olds in juvenile courts and out of the Illinois prison system.

"Now today, this bill suggests that they're mature enough to understand the voting process," Reboletti said of 17-year-olds. "But they're too immature to understand that they're committing a burglary."

Sente's plan comes from a government class at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire and government teacher Andrew Conneen. So far, 19 other states allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries.

Before an Illinois House panel earlier this week, Conneen compared the proposal to the NCAA basketball tournament.

"If you fill out a bracket, you're much more likely to be interested in the championship game," Conneen said.

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