Noting that Oregon is a “state of innovation,” state Sen. Shemia Fagan, D-Portland, is bandying about the idea of lowering the state’s legal voting age from 18 to 16.
Fagan introduced the measure Monday in the legislature in Salem.
Proponents say youth should have more of a say in how their lives will be affected in the future, particularly as it pertains to finances, clean air and water, education and school safety and climate change, among other issues.
“It’s time to lower the voting age in Oregon and to give our young people a chance to participate in the ballot, about their decisions that affect their homes, their clean air, their future, their schools and as we’ve seen, their very lives,” Fagan said.
Several teenagers spoke in favor of the measure alongside Fagan at the Capitol.
“Why can I drive like an adult, pay taxes like an adult, have an abortion like an adult, be charged and sentenced like an adult, but I can’t vote like an adult?” asked Christine Bynum, a student at La Salle High School.
Students spoke of a desire to curb gun violence and to protect the environment.
“We’re experts of our own experiences,” news reports quoted of Connor Gabor.
“People are being sexually assaulted in their schools,” Gabor said. “People are being shot. Yet, they can’t vote for school board members or lawmakers. When we have a lockdown and fear for our lives, we know what that feels like. We want to take agency over our own lives.”
Fagan is proposing a change to the Oregon Constitution. If lawmakers approve the measure, it would then go to the voters. Fagan is shooting for a 2020 ballot question.
“Oregon is a state of innovation when it comes to election reform, and it makes sense for us to consider the bold proposal of lowering the voting age this session,” said Samantha Gladu, executive director of the Bus Project, which is behind the measure. “In Oregon, we consistently push the boundary of what is possible and look for creative ways to include as many voices as possible in our democracy. We want all Oregonians to be heard.”