Minors should be allowed to vote in local elections


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Hannah Woosley

For the first time, Kentucky could be the state to lead the way in voting rights for minors.

In 2018, Democratic Senator Reggie Thomas of Lexington proposed a bill that would finally grant suffrage to 16- and 17-year-olds in Kentucky to vote in school board and local elections.

Often, when someone turns 16, they’re looked at as “maturing,” and are therefore given more responsibilities, even some in the eyes of the law. A person can begin the driving process and could apply to become an emancipated minor, which are just two large steps of responsibility given to someone at 16.

Students are even becoming more politically active at younger ages, garnering facts and statistics about things happening in the political world around them, like the high school students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Many also helped protest the pension reform bill in Kentucky, beginning steps to understanding the way laws work and its effects.

Joshua Douglas, a UK law professor specializing in election law, said that voting, or not voting, is “habit-forming.”

According to the State Board of Elections Voter Turnout Report in Kentucky for the 2016 general election, 224,659 people were registered to vote but only 139,390 actually voted – only 62 percent.

When a 16-year-old is taught at a young age the importance of voting and that voting is a way to make their voice heard, and they begin voting, that habit can stick. We could finally have better country-wide participation in voting, which would allow for a more accurate representation of who people in the U.S. want to be elected rather than just a portion of the country.

Voting in local elections for two years before turning 18, when you’re allowed to vote in general elections, is a way to form this habit and understand how to get informed before voting.

If we treat 16-year-olds like they’re children, like they don’t or can’t understand what’s happening in the world around them, they won’t. It’s important for adults to teach their children the importance of engaging in politics and voting, and how it can, and does, change the way things work.

Amending the state’s constitution to allow 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote is something Kentucky needs to do, and all other states should follow their lead.