Park Slope

Teens rally at Board of Elections to lower voting age

November 9, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Assemblymember Robert Carroll (center) says his bill to lower the voting age to 17 also streamlines the voting registration process “to encourage more young people to vote.” At right is Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. Photo courtesy of Carroll’s office.

An effort to lower the voting age in New York state to 17 appears to be gaining momentum as a Brooklyn lawmaker who joined forces with high school students is continuing his push for a change in the law.

Representatives from the Youth Progressive Policy Group, an organization made up of politically savvy high school students, took part in a rally organized by Assemblymember Robert Carroll outside the offices of the New York City Board of Elections on Nov. 6.

Carroll and the teens are seeking a new law that would grant 17-year-olds the right to vote in statewide and local elections.

The current voting age in New York is 18.

The students taking part in the rally hailed from seven high schools around the city.

“We are engaged and ready to vote. It’s time for those in power to recognize that. That’s why we’re rallying here today,” leaders of the Youth Progressive Policy Group said in a statement.

Carroll (D-Park Slope), a freshman lawmaker who became interested in politics as a teenager, said the time has come to help young people become more engaged in the political process.

“New York state has some of the worst voting laws in the nation and we are consistently between 41st and 49th in the country in voter turnout. As a state, we must do more to make it easier to vote. If someone does not become an active voter by the time they are 25 then they’re likely to never become an active voter. Lowering the vote age to 17 will encourage young people to get into the habit of voting while still living at home in a familiar environment, before they go off to college or elsewhere,”  Carroll said.

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Carroll introduced the Young Voter Act in March to lower the voting age to 17. His legislation also included a requirement that students be given voter registration forms in school.

“My bill streamlines the registration process.  By the time 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,” Carroll said.

The idea to lower the voting age was first proposed earlier this year by a trio of high school students who live in Carroll’s Assembly district.

Max Shatan, Eli Frankel and Chris Stauffer, all of whom attended Bard High School at the time, reached out to Carroll (D-Park Slope-Windsor Terrace) in January to propose the law change.

The three boys were among several students who traveled up to Albany in the spring to lobby for the passage of Carroll’s bill.

“It’s so important for teenagers to get involved,” Stauffer said at the time. “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.”

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

“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,” Frankel said.

Since the Albany lobbying effort, Carroll has been working with students from across the city to boost his bill’s chances.

Monday’s rally was part of that effort.

The bill, which is sponsored in the state Senate by Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Greenwich Village), has the support of several Brooklyn lawmakers.

Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon (D-Brooklyn Heights-Carroll Gardens) attended the rally outside of the Board of Elections and said the law needs to be changed.

“Many young people have been advocating for an opportunity to engage in their civic duty and exercise their right to vote sooner. Voter registration at high schools would make it easier for young people to be educated to register and get to the polls on Election Day. We want to increase voter turnout throughout New York,” Simon said.

The voting age for presidential elections is 18 in all 50 states, but some states allow residents who are 17 years old to vote in primary elections if they will turn 18 years of age by the date of the general election.

“Seventeen-year-old New Yorkers contribute to their communities. They hold jobs. They pay taxes.  They should be full participants in our democracy,” Carroll said.

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