My Bill to Let 16 Year-Olds Participate in Politics
The tow company bill, not a big deal; but it’s hard to forgive Arne vetoing a bill that was of, by and for the kids. Getting young people excited about life, about politics, about how much fun it all can be, has been a big part of my life, as reflected in these stories. So when a group of teenagers asked me to sponsor a bill that would allow 16 year-olds to vote, I immediately said good idea.
Allowing 16 year-olds the vote was, however, not a new idea. Rep. Phyllis Kahn had been trying to get it passed for years – with no luck. So we hit upon a middle ground that might garner legislative support: Allow 16 year-olds to participate in the precinct caucus and party convention process, but keep the voting age at 18. In Minnesota political parties convene neighborhood caucuses in February/March to start building the party platform and elect delegates who later meet in convention to endorse candidates for office, but state law limits participation to those eligible to vote in November. Just change that one part, but not the whole thing.
The group of students who came to me with the idea then got a hands-on education in the political process. They got students all over the state to visit legislators and get promises of support. They testified in committee hearings about how schools could incorporate the caucus/convention process into the curriculum, how this would lead to more students caring about issues, how it might result in 18-25 year-olds no longer being the least likely to turn out on election day, and over-all make for a better democracy. They thoroughly rebutted the argument that they didn’t know enough about the issues to be informed participants. They were in the galley when the votes were taken. And they got their bill passed.
But we didn’t give enough thought to whether the Governor liked the idea or not, and Arne’s veto took us all by surprise. Once again there was no veto message. If I had to guess at a reason I’d say it’s just a Republican thing to believe in voter suppression.
Tomorrow: Sovietizing Our Youth