Nonprofit Pushing States To Lower Voting Age to 16 for Local Elections

While Illinois lawmakers and local officials are considering raising the legal age to smoke and own firearms, a push to lower the voting age is gaining steam.

Vote 16 Illinois is a chapter of Vote 16 USA, a nonprofit with a goal to lower the legal voting age requirements for local elections.

The group is working with state lawmakers to start the conversation about getting 16-year-olds the right to vote.

Brandon Klugman, with Vote 16’s national chapter, said that voting at 16 sets the tone for civic participation in later years.

“When people vote in the first election they’re eligible for, they’re much more likely to continue voting in subsequent elections,” he said.

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Perhaps more compelling to detractors of allowing a 16-year-old to vote in local elections: If they’re already working and paying taxes, shouldn’t they have a say in that process?

“Young people who are working and paying taxes are definitely aware of that fact,” Klugman said.

When asked why it’s acceptable for a young person to vote five years before they can buy cigarettes, as was approved by the Illinois Senate in April, Klugman said the timelines aren’t comparable.

“Each age line should be set at what makes the most sense in that particular behavior and that particular activity,” he said.

Allowing local votes at 16 would require changing the state’s constitution.

The Illinois Constitution would have to be amended to allow only home-rule municipalities the option to lower their age requirement.

It’s not impossible. It was changed via referendum in 1988 to lower the voting age from 21 to 18, where it stands now.

Eighteen would still be the age limit for elections with federal consequences.

Klugman said cities in Alabama, California and Maryland have allowed voting at 16 for certain local elections. Washington D.C. is currently debating a similar measure.

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for Illinois News Network and Watchdog.org. He has produced radio shows for stations in Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

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This article originally appeared on the Watchdog website under the headline, “Nonprofit pushing Illinois to lower voting age to 16 for local elections.”