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Lowering The Voting Age

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Joe Widmer
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When you turn 16 you can drive, pay taxes on your earnings and you begin making major decisions about your future.  But you’re not allowed to vote.  As Las Cruces High School “Bulldawg Broadcast” student Stefanie Gutierrez reports one group is working to change that.

In New Mexico 16 year olds have adult responsibilities. Take my class some already have babies, some are the main earners for their families and all of us are making some of the most important decisions of our lives. Issues like public education and affordability of higher education disproportionally affect those under 18. Yet we have no say over how these political decisions are made.

Fair vote is an advocacy group that said

If young citizens are old enough to drive, work without restrictions on their hours, and pay taxes-- they should also have a voice in their local government”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-trBN-aUJvI&feature=youtu.be

We asked Las Cruces high school students if 16 year olds should be able to vote.

“I think at the age 16 and 17 we have an good enough mind set to think what we want for our further to be able to vote for who should be able pick who should be in charge of us”

Charlie Herrera said.

“I have a voice and I can use it.” Cesar Miss said.

None of the students we interviewed at Las Cruces high school- said they were against lowering the voting age. But many of the adults we interviewed weren’t fully convinced 16 year olds have the maturity to vote.

“They don’t! but neither do 20 year olds- probably most of the time neither do 30 year olds. I don’t think age makes you better at that- the opportunity to have experiences does“

Erin Hegberg said.

“I don’t think that is a good age to put a responsibility on a teenager when they should be in school concentration on that” Elizabeth Astorga said.

Dona Ana County Chief Deputy Clerk Scott Krahling oversees elections in the County- we asked him about the potential impact of lowering the voting age. He said there are many examples of young people making themselves heard in the political process like when the County was considering closing down a skate park in Chaparral.

“That might have gone ahead and closed it down but during summer a good group of kids that used it showed up at county meeting and talked about it and talked about the importance in their lives”

But it’s about more than simply giving young people a voice. Voter turnout hit historic lows in the 2014 elections- lowering the voting age could improve turnout.  And according to research from Fairvote it could get people in the habit of voting at a younger age.

Krahling said voter education and registering eligible voters in the schools could have the same impact… without the complexities of changing the law.

“I think if we go to every high school and talk to every graduating senior about how to register to vote where they  can do it give them the option right there and then I think that would do more to increase turn out then lowering the age.” Krahling said.

The 26th Amendment, that lowered the federal voting age to 18 in 1971, does not prohibit 16-year-olds from voting.

Dona Ana County wouldn’t be the first place to lower the voting age.  Takoma Park, Maryland began allowing 16 year olds to vote beginning with the 2014 municipal elections. Adults could probably take a lesson from them 16 year olds voted at twice the rate as adults in that election.         
                                                                                                                         
Las Cruces high school student Julia Montoya... said it’s an unfair double standard.. but one that is unlikely to change before she is 18.

“We are getting to age where were going to have to vote and where were going to have to figure out politics and know what is going on though our world this is our life you know this we would have to learn sometime might as well learn at 16 and 17 right”