Windsor Terrace

Carroll seeks to lower voting age to 17

High school students helped lawmaker craft bill

March 23, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Assemblymember Robert Carroll (second from left) meets students Max Shatan, Eli Frankel and Chris Stauffer (left to right) after the teens contacted him with their idea to lower the voting age. Photo courtesy of Carroll’s office

New York state’s voting age would be lowered from 18 to 17 under a bill sponsored by Assemblymember Robert Carroll, who credited three high school students with the bold idea.

Max Shatan, Eli Frankel and Chris Stauffer, all of whom attend Bard High School, reached out to Carroll (D-Park Slope-Windsor Terrace) earlier this year to propose a change in state law to allow teenagers to vote.

New York state’s voting age was last lowered in 1971, from 21 to 18.

Included in the proposal put forth by Shatan, Frankel and Stauffer is a provision that would allow students to register to vote in high school civics classes.

“The easier it is to register, the more people will register. The more people register, the better our democracy works. It’s that simple,” Carroll said in a statement.

It makes sense to let 17-year-olds vote, according to Carroll. “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,” he said. 

In addition to lowering the voting age, Carroll’s bill would require New York high schools to distribute two forms to all students turning 17. The first form is a standard voter registration form. The second form is a “Voter Registration Opt-Out.” Each student would have a choice as to which form to complete. 

Frankel, 16, a junior, said the idea to lower the voting age grew out of a desire to see more young people take part in the political process.

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“It all began with a simple question: What can high school students do between election years to really influence policy? Now, thanks to Assemblymember Carroll, here we are, the youth of New York, united behind our fight for a voice in government,” he stated.

After making initial contact with Carroll, who immediately expressed enthusiasm for their idea, the three students met with the lawmaker in his Brooklyn office three times in February and March. As a result of those sessions, Carroll and the students crafted the bill now known as the Young Voter Act.

“It’s so important for teenagers to get involved,” said Stauffer, a 16-year-old 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.”

Voting would give young people a say in important issues that could affect their lives, according to Shatan, 17, a senior. “Most of us attend public schools. And we run headlong into the student loan crisis, which could affect us for decades,” he said in a statement.

The three students came up with their proposal with assistance from the Youth Progressive Policy Group, a grassroots organization they founded at Bard High School. 

Carroll applauded the efforts of the teens.

“As a kid, I was engaged in local politics, but so many of my classmates just didn’t care. Many of them never even registered to vote. My bill streamlines this process,” Carroll stated.

The Young Voter Act would also require high school students to receive at least eight full class periods of civics education.

“When you turn 17, we will put a voter registration form in your hands and hopefully we will get young people voting by not only registering them but by giving them at least eight class periods of civics classes in high school. If a person starts voting before they turn 25 years old, they are much more likely to be an active voter for their entire life than someone who starts voting later in life,” Carroll stated.

In May, Carroll will welcome his three constituents to Albany to take part in a lobby day, when they will meet with lawmakers to urge support for the bill.

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