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ANNAPOLIS (Jan. 2, 2008) – At its December 20th meeting, the Maryland State Board of Elections reached a unanimous decision to allow a 17-year-old, who will be 18 on or before the next succeeding general or special election, to vote in a primary election. The decision was based on the advice of Attorney General Douglas Gansler.

Previous advice from Gansler's office had determined that affected 17-year-olds could not vote in primary elections. However, his recent advice stated that the associational rights of the political parties, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the State constitution, allows the parties to determine whether affected 17-year-olds may vote in the party’s primary. Both the Maryland Democratic and Republican Parties have explicitly stated that a 17-year-old registered with the party may vote in that party’s primary election.

To implement the decision, the Board of Elections has announced that they will take the following actions:

-- Inform all 17-year-olds who have previously submitted voter registration applications that they are now active registered voters who are eligible to vote in the primary election of the party with which they are affiliated;

-- Inform the 24 local boards of elections of the State Board’s decision so they can ensure that all future voter registration applications submitted by 17-year-olds will be accepted;

-- Request that Nancy Grasmick, State Superintendent of Schools, provide assistance with ensuring that 17-year-olds in State schools are aware that they can register and vote in the upcoming Presidential Primary Election if they will be 18 on or before the general election; and

-- Request that the political parties work towards getting 17-year-olds to register to vote.

The 2008 Presidential Primary Election will be held on Tuesday, February 12, 2008.

The deadline to register to vote in this election is Tuesday, January 22, 2008. Voter registration applications are available at http://www.elections.state.md.us/ .

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