Teens lobby state legislature to lower NY voting age
More than 30 teenagers trekked from New York City up to Albany to lobby the state Legislature for passage of a bill that would lower the voting age from 18 to 17.
They found a champion for their cause in Assemblymember Robert Carroll (D-Park Slope-Windsor Terrace), who is the sponsor of a bill called the Young Voter Act. In addition to lowering the voting age, the Young Voter Act would mandate that high schools distribute voter registration forms to all students turning 17 in a calendar year.
Carroll drafted the legislation after meeting with Bard High School students Max Shatan, Chris Stauffer and Eli Frankel, who came up with the idea and presented it to the assemblymember.
“This is my first time visiting Albany. I’m looking forward to seeing how bills become laws and how our state government functions,” Shatan, a 17-year-old junior said during a day of lobbying that took place on May 9.
“This process proves that when high school students are sincere, engaged and interested in gaining a voice, they really can make a difference,” said Frankel, 16, a junior. “When we reached out to Assemblymember Carroll in the winter, we had no idea that we would end up in Albany, working with him, just a few months later.”
Stauffer, a 16-year-old junior, said the bill “will ensure the voices of teenagers are heard.”
Carroll introduced the bill in the Assembly in March.
“This is how democratic reforms happen, through grass-roots action by New Yorkers committed to making our democracy fairer and better,” Carroll said in a statement. “It gives me pride to see our state’s future generation of leaders rising up to make change.”
Carroll, a lawyer with a background in voting rights, said he sees the Young Voter Act as a critical first step toward reforming New York state archaic voting practices.
“We have one of the most dysfunctional governments in the country. That happened because Albany is fundamentally out of touch with working New Yorkers. The state is governed by leaders who have no fear of the ballot box, because the system is designed to protect the powers that be,” he stated, adding that that his bill “provides a foundation for the public to take control of our democracy,” he stated.
State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) is sponsoring the bill in the Senate.
“New York’s abysmal 55 percent voter turnout is both an embarrassment and a threat to our political institutions. Without an active and engaged citizenry, New York is destined to become a government of special interests, by special interests, and for special interests. That’s why we need the Young Voter Act. By lowering the voting age to 17 and requiring voter education coursework in high schools, New York can lead the way in fostering a new generation of civic-minded and politically informed voters,” Hoylman said in a statement.
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