New Bill Seeks to Lower Arizona Voting Age From 18 to 16

11 March 2016   Amber Kahwaji | Cronkite News
Barrett Nitschke shows his senior class their voting results after each student entered their vote Photo by Amber Kahwaji/Cronkite News
  Voters Will Decide in November Whether They Want to Lower the Voting Age to 16

PHOENIX – A proposed amendment to the Arizona Constitution would let 16-year-olds vote in state elections, a move supporters hope would boost interest in elections and lead to greater turnout of young voters.

The current voting age in the state is 18, but young voters, those 18 to 29 years old, are consistently the lowest age group for voter voter turnout, according to the Census data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project.

That’s where House Concurrent Resolution 2046, comes in. The proposal, if passed, would ask voters in November whether they want to amend the constitution to lower the voting age to 16.

The resolution was introduced by 11 Democratic members of the House but has yet to get a hearing – or even be assigned to a committee for a hearing. But Maryvale High School teacher Barrett Nitschke is a fan of the idea.

Nitschke, who teaches American government at Maryvale, said not giving 16-year-olds the right to vote is a double standard because 16-year-olds are allowed to work and pay taxes. In Arizona, they also can get a driver’s license, get married with parental consent and be tried as an adult if they commit a violent crime.

“Sixteen- and 17-year-olds pay about $9 billion in taxes every year, but they don’t have a vote,” Nitschke said. “The whole country was based on ‘no taxation without representation,’ so why not them too?”

Darby Johnson, a 17-year-old junior at another Phoenix school, said she would exercise her right to vote if the age is lowered.

“If our government of the state thinks my age group is capable, then I would definitely help and be responsible for what decisions need to be made,” Johnson said.

Two cities in Maryland have already lowered the voting age: Takoma Park and Hyattsville allow  16-year-olds to vote in city elections, according to Vote16USA.

Evan Bolick, a Phoenix attorney, said the system to amend the Arizona Constitution is relatively straightforward.

“All you need is a simple majority in the House and Senate to pass the amendment on to the voters,” Bolick said. “There, it only takes another simple majority, 51 percent of the voters, to approve the amendment.”

In the little more than 100 years Arizona has been a state, there have been 150 constitutional  amendments, he said.

This isn’t the first time legislators have attempted to lower Arizona’s voting age. A move in 2008 failed, according to Cronkite News.

Nitschke said the voices of a younger generation should not be ignored.

“I admire their perspective because old people, we tend to see things how they are. The youth, they can see things how they should be,” Nitschke said.

Web links:

HCR 2046: http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/52leg/2r/bills/hcr2046p.pdf

Vote16USA white paper: http://proportiondesign.com/vote16/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Vote16USA-white-paper.pdf

Voter turnout data: http://www.electproject.org/home/voter-turnout/demographics