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LOWER THE VOTING AGE TO 17

If I am elected governor, I will work to lower the voting age for all federal, state, and local offices to 17. If the result is favorable, I would advocate lowering the voting age later to 16.

Nicaragua, Brazil, Estonia, Isle of Man, Austria, Guernsey, Jersey, Ecuador, Argentina, and Malta all allow those 16 and 17 years old to vote. Northern Ireland and  Scotland are considering it and will probably implement it soon.

Tacoma Park, Maryland has just changed the law to allow those 16 years old to vote in city elections.

Those who are 16 and 17 years old are often working, and there is no limit on the number of hours they can work. If they are working, they are paying taxes.

Those who are 16 and 17 years old can apply under RCW 16.64 with the Superior Court to be emancipated.

Those who are 16 and 17 years old can consent to intimate relations.Voting_United_States

Those who are 16 and 17 years old are more capable than many of their elders at using computers and internet technology and are therefore better informed in some ways

Those who are 16 and 17 years old are studying government in school.

Those who are 16 and 17 years old know more about what is going on in schools, and we need their feedback.

They are at a stage where they are giving serious consideration to the state of the world and the physical environment. They are going to have to live with the mistakes their elders are making and so deserve to have some input.

My prediction is that allowing 17 year olds to vote will provoke them to give a lot of thought to issues important to them and vote responsibly. Those who start voting early will be more likely to continue to vote all their lives.

Now for the objections:

Objection: A lot of 17 year olds lack the maturity to vote. The same is true of a lot of adults, but we let them vote.

Objection: Those 17 years old will not bother to vote. However, many of those 18 and over do not bother to vote. In neither case is this objection relevant.

WASHINGTON CONSTITUTION, ARTICLE VI, ELECTIONS AND ELECTIVE RIGHTS, SECTION 1, QUALIFICATIONS OF ELECTORS says:

All persons of the age of eighteen years or over who are citizens of the United States and who have lived in the state, county, and precinct thirty days immediately preceding the election at which they offer to vote, except those disqualified by Article VI, section 3 of this Constitution, shall be entitled to vote at all elections. [AMENDMENT 63, 1974 Senate Joint Resolution No. 143, p 807. Approved November 5, 1974.]

Does this constitutional provision prohibit counties, cities, and even the state from enacting a voting age lower than 18 by legislation? In my opinion, no. It guarantees the franchise to those at least 18 but says nothing about whether a city council, a county council, or the state legislature could enact a lower voting age. It would prohibit city, county or state from requiring a voting age higher than 18, but it does not prohibit enacting a lower voting age..

Whether a county law lowering the voting age would be binding on cities within that county is an open question with me, and answering the question is going to require study of Washington laws pertaining to home rule law for counties and cities. A change in the County charter, voted on by the people, would certainly be binding on cities.

The best way to lower the voting age state wide to 17 would be by constitutional amendment. The people should be consulted on such an important issue.

James

FAIRVOTE.ORG SAYS:

FairVote supports expanding suffrage to 16 and 17-year-olds in municipal elections. The proposal to extend voting rights to people after they turn 16 may surprise some, but the latest research is a revelation. All evidence suggests that cities will increase turnout by allowing citizens to cast their first vote after turning 16. The reason is simple. Many people at 16 and 17 have lived in their communities for years and are taking government classes in high school. That combination results in more people exercising their first chance to vote if they are 16 or 17 than if they are unable to vote until they have left home and school.

A voting age of 18 means that many people won’t get a chance to vote in city elections until they are nearly 20. A detailed study of voting age and voters in Denmark found that 18-year-olds were far more likely to cast their “first vote” than 19-year-olds, and that every month of extra age in those years resulted in a decline in “first vote” turnout. Allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local elections will enable them to vote before leaving home and high school, and establish a life-long habit of voting.

Lowering the voting age to 16 is becoming an international movement. A growing number of nations like Austria, Argentina, Germany and the United Kingdom that have extended voting rights to people at 16 for national, regional or local elections. Evidence from Austria confirms that extending voting rights to people after they turn 16 promotes higher turnout for first-time voters and over time. Austria’s experience also shows that 16- and 17-year-olds are ready for voting as far as making choices that accurately reflect their views.

Long-time backers of a lower voting age, like the National Youth Rights Association, make a fairness argument as well. Turning 16 has special significance in our culture. At age 16, we can drive, pay taxes and for the first time work without any restriction on hours. Many states already allow citizens under 18 to vote in Democratic and Republican primaries for president, Congress and governor.

WASHINGTON CONSTITUTION, ARTICLE VI, ELECTIONS AND ELECTIVE RIGHTS, SECTION 1, QUALIFICATIONS OF ELECTORS says:

All persons of the age of eighteen years or over who are citizens of the United States and who have lived in the state, county, and precinct thirty days immediately preceding the election at which they offer to vote, except those disqualified by Article VI, section 3 of this Constitution, shall be entitled to vote at all elections. [AMENDMENT 63, 1974 Senate Joint Resolution No. 143, p 807. Approved November 5, 1974.]

Does this constitutional provision prohibit counties, cities, and even the state from enacting a voting age lower than 18 by legislation? In my opinion, no. It guarantees the franchise to those at least 18 but says nothing about whether a city council, a county council, or the state legislature could enact a lower voting age. It would prohibit city, county or state from requiring a voting age higher than 18, but it does not prohibit enacting a lower voting age..

Whether a county law lowering the voting age would be binding on cities within that county is an open question with me, and answering the question is going to require study of Washington laws pertaining to home rule law for counties and cities. A change in the County charter, voted on by the people, would certainly be binding on cities.

The best way to lower the voting age state wide to 17 would be by constitutional amendment. The people should be consulted on such an important issue.

James