DENVER - If you’re 16-years-old in Colorado you can legally drive a car. You can go to prison on the same charges an adult would face. But you cannot vote for the men and women who will run your high school.
A Democratic state legislator is proposing a bill that would allow school districts to lower the voting age to 16 for school board elections, allowing high schoolers from sophomore to senior year to help pick members of school boards.
“For the 16-year-old that already cares about this this is great,” Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, said. “For the 16 year old who doesn't care about this who is feeling cynical...I hope this gives them a little sense of hope and a little sense of responsibility.”
The measure, which is still being drafted ahead of January’s regular legislative session, would only apply to school board races. It would also include a provision to ensure privacy for minors who would vote.
“It allows 16- and 17-year-olds access to democracy,” Singer said.
Singer said the bill also aims at getting more people active in democracy by starting them in the process early.
He also points to the positive impact it might have on the races themselves, driving candidates to get to learn more about the constituency they’ll be working with in schools.
"I hope that this actually forces the candidates into the schools," he said.
Jasmine Mohamed, 16, used to attend Cherry Creek Schools.
“I want youth my age to have a voice in their community,” Mohamed said. “And I think the most impactful voice would be on our school boards.”
Mohamed said as a student in Cherry Creek, the school board made a few decisions she wished she had more of a say in, like cutting back a bit of funding the speech and debate team, which she participated in.
“We don't have a voice in the financials and how the budget is going to be distributed and we don't have a voice in the overall structure of our schools and programs,” she said.
Mohamed had leg surgery and missed a lot of school, so she ended up studying and earning her GED. She’s now entering Metro State University in the fall as a 16-year-old.
Critics of Singer’s proposal warn that students that age haven’t fully developed yet.
“They’re concerned that kids aren’t well-informed enough,” Singer said. “That they’re going to be impressionable.”
A very unscientific poll by this Next reporter found 70 percent of 9NEWS viewers disagreed with the proposal.
Singer believes he’ll be able to change some minds before the bill hits the floor when session starts next year.
The state of Colorado already allows students to pre-register to vote. So far more than 31,000 people under the age of 18 have pre-registered.
Most of those students have registered as unaffiliated. Republican pre-registriations outweigh democrats by 490.
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