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Members of the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee might find some glittery valentines today mixed in with their piles of paperwork on pending bills. The folks at FairVote, a Takoma Park-based nonprofit for voting rights, had dozens of 16-year-old students at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring send notes pleading, "don't break my heart" to lawmakers on the Ways and Means committee and the Senate's Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee today and tomorrow.

The notes lobby legislators to support two bills that would allow all 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote. The bills would allow their registrations to become effective whenever they reach legal voting age.

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Current law limits pre-registration to only those 16-year-olds who will turn 18 by the next general election. The valentines blitz follows an effort by hundreds of students earlier this year who fought against a State Board of Elections decision to stop 17-year-olds from voting in primaries. Last week, the state Court of Appeals agreed with the youngsters, ruling that 17-year-olds should be allowed to vote in partisan and non-partisan primary elections.

Officials in Annapolis are getting a real taste this session of youth activism. This week it's valentines. Last week, it was banners, coffins and handcuffs. Hundreds of students from Baltimore and Washington rallied for more adequate education funding and threw a coffin on the steps of the State House to illustrate how depleted state aid kills their futures. Some lawmakers and aides watched stunned as two dozen students were detained by handcuffs. Del. Frank Conaway of Baltimore was one of the lawmakers watching the scene unfold. "I think it's great to see the youth get involved like this," he said. "This is how you learn about the political process. This is how you get involved."

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