Youth must be served!
That’s the idea behind a measure that Assemblymember Robert ‘Bobby” Carroll is floating that would lower the voting age down one year – from 18 to 17 – and dubbed the Young Voter Act (A6839).
“As a kid, I was engaged in local politics,” said Carroll, 30, the second youngest member of the assembly after Assemblymember James Skoufis (D-Woodbury), 29. “But so many of my classmates just didn’t care. Many of them never even registered to vote. My bill streamlines this process. When you turn 17, we will put a voter registration form in your hands and hopefully we will get young people voting.”
Carroll got the idea from three students at Bard High School – Eli Frankel, Chris Stauffer and Max Shatan – who hatched their proposed law under the auspices of the Youth Progressive Policy Group (YPPG), a grassroots organization aspiring to engage young people in a dialogue with both local and statewide policy.
“It all began with a simple question: what can high school students do between election years to really influence policy?” said Eli Frankel, 16, a junior. “Now, thanks to Assemblymember Carroll, here we are, the youth of New York united behind our fight for a voice in government.”
The teen’s bold solution was to lower the state’s voting age from 18 to 17. Register students to vote in their high school civics classes and empower a new generation of New Yorkers to register, vote and become leaders in their communities.
The high school students then met with Carroll three times in his Brooklyn office in February and March before the four crafted the language for the bill.
“It’s so important for teenagers to get involved,” said Stauffer, 16, a junior. “Politicians don’t listen to young people because we usually don’t vote. If we want them to care about our concerns, we need to vote.”
“High school students have legitimate concerns,” said senior Max Shatan, 17. “Most of us attend public schools. And we run headlong into the student loan crisis, which could affect us for decades.”
Aside from lowering the voting age by a year, Carroll’s bill would mandate New York high schools to distribute two forms to all students turning 17 that calendar year. The first form is a standard voter registration form. The second form is a “Voter Registration Opt-Out.” Each student has the choice of which form to complete. The forms are then collected by school administrators.
The Young Voter Act also requires all pupils in the ninth grade or higher receive at least eight full class periods of civics education.
“We owe our students an education in how their government works,” Carroll said. “The Young Voter Act will ensure our young people know their rights and know what it means to be an active member of a democracy.”
Currently, the voting age of 18 is the law in all 50 states. New York’s age of franchise has been 18 since the passage of the 26th Amendment in 1971. Some states allow persons age 17 to vote in primary elections if they will be 18 by the date of the general election.
The Young Voter Act would also reduce the voter registration age to 17, allowing New Yorkers to register and vote as early as their seventeenth birthdays.
“Seventeen-year-old New Yorkers contribute to their communities. They hold jobs. They pay taxes. When they commit crimes, they are tried as adults. They should be full participants in our democracy,” said Carroll.