First step in allowing teens to vote passes city council unanimously

Decision now up to voters this November

Posted 8/28/18

It’s one thing to learn about government in high school, and something else to actually participate in it. “This might connect youth to how city government functions,” said councilman Paul …

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First step in allowing teens to vote passes city council unanimously

Decision now up to voters this November

Posted

It’s one thing to learn about government in high school, and something else to actually participate in it.

“This might connect youth to how city government functions,” said councilman Paul Haseman, adding, “this is just for our city.”

The first step in the process of lowering the voting age to allow 16-and-17-year-olds to vote in municipal elections passed unanimously among Golden City Council on Aug. 23. Councilor Jim Dale and Mayor Marjorie Sloan were not in attendance.

Now that it passed the city council vote, a special ballot question will be included on Golden residents’ general election ballot this November. If it passes among voters, Golden City Council and city staff will work on administrative and logistical matters, and council would have the authority to bring forward an ordinance that would lower the voting age. This ordinance would be considered at two city council meetings and the community would be able to provide additional comment at public hearings.

If it passes, Golden would be the first city in Colorado to lower the voting age.

“I will look forward to what the citizens (of Golden) tell us,” councilman Rob Reed said.

With this timeline, the 16-and-17-year-olds could possibly vote in November 2019.

"But at this point we are unsure," said City Clerk Monica Mendoza, adding "there’s still a lot of unknowns” and variables to work out.

She outlined the three possible scenarios on how lowering the voting age could work in a staff memo. They are: coordinating the elections with Jefferson County, having a hybrid election where the city conducts a 16-and-17-year-old portion of the election or the city conducts the entire election. Cost could differ for each scenario.

If it does pass among voters this November, it is likely that more information will become available.

Another variable to consider is voter turnout among the teens. There is no way of knowing how many 16-and-17-year-olds will register to vote and of them, how many will actually participate in the election, said councilwoman Laura Weinberg.

Councilman Casey Brown pointed out that casual conversations with Brian Conroy, the principal at Golden High School, and Dr. Jason Glass, the superintendent of Jeffco Public Schools, have been favorable and they are supportive of it. Councilwoman Saoirse Charis-Graves added that the youth at the high school have also indicated a high interest in being able to vote.

Golden youth have shown interest in issues of recent elections, for example, broadband and the solar-garden, Sloan notes in an Aug. 9 city council memorandum.

Weinberg pointed out that she has been through the electoral process twice and would like to see a voter turnout for municipal elections higher than the estimated 30 percent from the two times she has run for office.

Along with that, councilors discussed the possible bonuses of lowering the voting age. For example, it could help develop a pattern so that the youth to become life-long voters and it could possibly lead to increased electoral participation from their parents.

It’s an “encouraging experiment,” Weinberg said.

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