Should 17-year-olds be allowed vote in primary elections?
November 3, 2015
In Vermont, 17-year-olds can vote in primary elections if they are going to be 18 by the time of the general election. These newly enfranchised voters have this right because of the hard work of students like you.
The state recently changed its constitution, making Vermont one of 18 states to give 17-year-olds voting rights in primaries if they will be 18 at the time of the general election. In primary elections, voters in each party decide who will represent the party in the general election. The general election is where the winners of each party’s primary face each other to determine who will represent their constituents.
The initiative to amend the state’s constitution came from Ellie Beckett, who was a junior at Champlain Valley Union High School. In 2008, she asked in her AP U.S. Government class why 17-year-olds
couldn’t vote in a primary election if they will be 18 at the time of the general election.
|The issue of voting rights is as old as the country itself. From the signing of the Constitution until the mid-19th century, only white men who owned property were allowed to vote. With the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870, voting rights were extended to all men, regardless of race and property holdings. In 1920, women were granted the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment. But the right to vote for 18-year-olds is relatively new. In fact, it’s barely 39 years old. In 1971, President Richard Nixon signed the 26th Amendment, giving voting rights to 18-year-olds. Before, a person had to be 21 to vote.
“We were discussing how about 11 other states allowed 17-year-olds to vote in primaries if they would be 18 in the general elections. We talked about how Vermont should adopt this policy,” Beckett wrote in an e-mail to the Burlington Free Press.
She took the idea to State Sen. Jeanette White, whom she was interning for as part of the Girls Rock the Capitol program. With additional lobbying of House members, White managed to get the amendment passed by the state legislature. The proposed amendment then was put on the ballot. Under the Vermont proposal, 17-year-olds would be allowed to vote for a candidate, but not on ballot questions.
Voters supported the change to the amendment, and on March 6, 2014, 17-year-olds were allowed to vote in the state primary for the first time.
What do you think?
Should 17-year-olds be allowed to vote in primary elections if they will be 18 by the time of the general election? If your state doesn’t allow you to vote in primaries if you are 17, how would you get officials to change the laws? How would you address the concern that 17-year-olds might not be knowledgeable enough to vote? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!
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