Golden votes no to lower voting age

Disappointing, but not surprising, for advocates

Taylore Todd and Christy Steadman
csteadman@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 11/12/18

While it's not surprising to adult advocates that Golden's ballot question to lower the voting age didn't pass, the teen advocates feel differently. “I think all of us were so optimistic, and we …

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Golden votes no to lower voting age

Disappointing, but not surprising, for advocates

Posted

While it's not surprising to adult advocates that Golden's ballot question to lower the voting age didn't pass, the teen advocates feel differently.

“I think all of us were so optimistic, and we really didn't face much opposition within the city of Golden,” said Codey Carr, 15, who has lived in Golden for five years. “So, it was kind of shocking — not only getting that loss, but also it being so big.”

The unofficial result on Nov. 7 reveals that the measure failed by a 65 percent 'no' return.

“I think the most disappointing part is knowing that it felt like it was such a progressive year for politics, (but) that people weren't ready for this,” said Abigayle Post, 18, an Arvada resident who attends Golden High School. “I think it all boils down to that.”

Golden's ballot question 2E proposed to allow 16-and-17-year-old residents to vote on municipal ballot questions.

Advocates said that, in addition to creating a pattern of life-long voting habits, allowing 16-and-17-year-olds to vote on local issues — those that directly affect them — would help prepare them for voting in state and federal elections when they turn 18.

Golden City Council put the measure on the ballot Aug. 23, with a 5-0 vote. Councilor Jim Dale and Mayor Marjorie Sloan were not in attendance at that meeting, though they both said they supported the move.

In October, city council voted 6-to-1 to endorse it. Councilor Rob Reed voted no.

Reasons to say no

If it would have passed, there would have been a lot of variables to work out. Among them were cost and implementation. These unknowns were largely the argument against it by critics.

Another concern was how to educate the youth on the issues so they could learn to make informed decisions, said Marv DeSelm, chair of the Golden Good Government League.

In a letter to the editor, the Golden Good Government League — a nonpartisan, volunteer and nonprofit political action committee — writes that “although some individual 16-and 17-year-olds would be capable electors, that age group is not yet independent and mature enough to vote on local candidates and issues that can have a major impact on shaping our city's quality of life and economic viability.”

Simply giving a 16-or-17-year-old the right to vote may not be adequate enough to pique their interest in getting involved with the city, DeSelm said. He suggests a better route may be for them to enroll in Leadership Golden or a different form of hands-one training, or encourage them to participate in age-appropriate positions with the city or community's volunteer committees, commissions or boards.

“It's a noble objective to get young people engaged,” DeSelm said, “but giving them voting privileges may not be the right way to do it.”

Another argument for allowing 16-and-17-year-olds to vote was that it could increase the voter turnout in local elections.

The teens had mixed opinions on that.

Trevor Reed, 18, who has lived in Golden his whole life believes “there would be a lot more voters” if people were allowed to vote at 16 years of age, he said. “Parents may even get more politically involved because they are trying to teach their kids.”

Still, teens won't be involved politically if they're not able to learn in school what they want to vote for, Reed said. That, in turn, he added, may discourage them from voting when they get into college.

Carr believes that many of his peers would vote if given the opportunity, but he added that “clearly, there would be some people who wouldn't become informed enough or wouldn't have wanted to vote.”

Although there is no way of knowing the exact reasons of why it didn't pass, there are a number of reasons that may have attributed to the outcome.

One reason could be that voters already had a lot of county and statewide issues to consider on this midterm ballot, said Bill McKee, a member of the Golden Votes 16 Steering Committee.

The teens agreed. Post and Reed both got to vote for their first time this election.

“It wouldn't surprise me if (voters) were just too tired by the time they got to the bottom of the ballot to actually make an informed opinion about what (Golden's ballot measure) actually was,” Carr said.

Another reason, McKee said, could be because there wasn't enough time to sufficiently inform people on the measure — the Golden Votes 16 Steering Committee formed in September.

Most people's initial reaction to the ballot question was to vote `no' on it, McKee added.

“If (voters) don't understand something well enough, they'll generally vote no,” DeSelm said. “Perhaps later, people could make a more informed decision (on this issue). Even though it might still be no, it'd be an informed no.”

In Colorado, a person can register to vote at age 16, as long as he or she will be 18 by Election Day. If the ballot measure would have passed, Golden would have been the first city in the state to allow 16-and-17-year-olds to vote.

However, three smaller-sized cities in Maryland currently allow 16-and-17-year-olds to vote in municipal elections, and Berkeley, California, allows 16-and-17-year-olds to vote on issues relating to its school board, McKee said.

“It's something that's new and different,” McKee said. “In these other places, it took a while for people to warm up to the idea.”

He added it didn't pass the first time it was introduced to voters in the other cities, but when it was revisited, and voters were more informed on it, it did pass, McKee said.

There are no plans as of now for the issue to come back up in Golden, he said, and it's still too soon to know whether it will.

“But I have a feeling it will someday,” McKee said, adding that despite that it failed at the polls, it was still a worthwhile effort. “It just didn't quite work out.”

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