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Bill would allow 17-year-olds to vote in Utah primary elections

SALT LAKE CITY — Saying he wants to encourage more high school-age Utahns to get involved in the political process, a state lawmaker is sponsoring a bill that would let them cast ballots at 17.

HB281 would allow 17-year-olds to participate in primary elections as long as they will turn 18 on or before the November general election.

“There are young people in our state who desperately want to be involved in our democracy," said the bill’s sponsor, House Minority Whip Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City. "This bill signals to Utah teens we want them to participate now and for a long time to come. It simply allows young people to help choose their party's primary candidates for a general election. It’s a bill that supports an important habit — voting,"

Cory Holdaway, representing Voterise, a nonprofit organization working to increase voter turnout among 18- to 29-year-olds, told a House committee Tuesday that the bill would help address apathy among millennials and the younger generations.

Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, raised concerns about lowering the voting age, saying 18 is the lowest threshold he's comfortable with.

"There has to be a line somewhere. There is no good evidence that this will result in more intelligent elections," said Thurston, who later voted in support of the bill.

Rep. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, joked that he has a 17-year-old who he knows would not vote for him.

By a 7-3 vote, the bill received a favorable recommendation Wednesday from the House Government Operations Committee. It now goes to the full House for further consideration.