A Golden Ballot: Colorado City Voting on Youth Enfranchisement
By Hannah Walker
Today residents of Golden, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, will vote whether to lower the voting age for local elections to 16. If successful, Golden would join Berkley, California and 3 Maryland towns - Takoma Park, Greenbelt, and Hyattsville - as the only jurisdictions to successfully pass measures lowering the voting age.
Other cities have attempted to lower the voting age. In 2016, voters in San Francisco failed to pass a similar measure to drop the local election voting age to 16. This summer, the Northampton, Massachusetts City Council passed a youth-led resolution to lower the voting age. However, that resolution will have to approved by the Massachusetts legislature, who has declined two previous city initiatives, before it goes to the voters. A natural amount of outcry arises when measures such as these are approved. Voter turnout is already abysmally low across the US, and that it is especially low among voters under the age of 30. Additionally, there are concerns about the maturity of young voters, and their ability to understand complex political and policy views. However, proponents of the lower voting age measures hope that it will engage young people in the political process, and make them more likely to vote. There’s also evidence that while young people have trouble with peer pressure and impulse control, their ability to understand political decisions is fully developed.
What do Golden residents think? While the Golden City Council voted to put the question on the ballot, the response has been mixed. I reached out to a former Golden resident who lives in Maryland, where lowering the voting age has been successful. “Lowering the voting age is one of the most effective ways to broaden diversity and inclusion in local elections…allowing younger individuals an ability to participate at such a local level will teach them and show them the impact their vote can have, and hopefully instill a lifelong interest and personal stake in politics,” said Larissa Caton.
No matter what the outcome in Golden, lowering the voting age will continue to be an important election law topic. If you want to learn more about lowering the voting age, check out the scholarship of Professor Joshua Douglas, the advisor of Election Law Society, who has written extensively on the topic!