Oregon lawmakers seek to lower voting age in state to 16, so teens can ‘protect their future’
Children are our future — and a group of Oregon lawmakers wants the future to be now.
They’re pushing a bill that would amend Oregon’s constitution to lower the voting age in the state from 18 to 16. They hope to put it before voters in 2020.
Younger Oregonians should have “a chance to participate in the ballot — about decisions that affect their homes, their clean air, their future, their schools and, as we’ve seen, their very lives,” Democratic state Sen. Shemia Fagan said at a Monday press conference announcing the measure.
Teens are “begging us to take action to protect their future,” she added. OPB reported that she referenced the student activists from Parkland, Florida, who launched the “Never Again” movement in the wake of the 2018 mass shooting at their high school.
Several Oregon student activists spoke at the press conference about why they deserved the right to vote before age 18.
“We need to be able to take our work to the ballot and protect the policies we’re working so hard to pass,” South Salem High School senior Maria Torres said.
Pressing issues affecting young people have brought the voting age down before. It used to be 21 before the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1971, lowered it to 18. The amendment was fueled in part by teenagers facing the draft for the Vietnam War, which had become increasingly unpopular.
Congress had lowered the voting age in 1970 for state and federal offices, but Oregon objected to a lower minimum age being foisted on its state elections. It insisted the law was unconstitutional and won in the U.S. Supreme Court. This led to the successful push for the 26th amendment.
The newly introduced Oregon bill seeks to allow Oregonians starting at age 16 to vote in all elections, the Statesman-Journal reported, but such a law ultimately might only apply to state and local elections.
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