Sen. Knezek, Rep. Rabhi Introduce ‘Sweet Sixteen’ Voting Reform
LANSING, Mich., June 13, 2018 — Sen. David Knezek (D–Dearborn Heights) and Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D–Ann Arbor) introduced legislation today to lower the voting age to 16, which, if passed, would make Michigan the first state to expand voting rights to any state-elected office for this age demographic.
Senate Bill 1064, Senate Joint Resolution T, House Bill 6183 and House Joint Resolution KK were introduced to provide a larger civic engagement platform for the increasing number of young people who are actively and aggressively participating in the political process. Students from across the country have come together in person and on social media to advance a variety of causes, yet, while they’ve been outspoken on a number of pressing issues, their electoral voice remains silenced.
“Young people have earned and deserve a voice in our political process,” Sen. Knezek said. “As we’ve seen across the country, a diverse coalition of students have set aside partisan politics in an effort to bring about positive change within our political system. I’ve consistently seen that this generation refuses to let their differences divide them; rather, they celebrate and are proud of all that makes America unique and strong. In a society that is deeply fractured by ignorance and close-mindedness toward others, their voices deserve a vote.”
Historically, young voters between the ages of 18 to 24 have the lowest turnout rate every election cycle. Studies point to a lack of familiarity with the voting process and a transitional period when most young people are in college as the two reasons for low voter participation.
As introduced, the bills would lower the voting age from 18- to 16-years-old in order to give teenagers an opportunity to head to the polls with their parents or guardians. Studies have shown that younger and older generations are more likely to vote while living together, with young people also more likely to engage in subsequent elections after learning the process from their elders.
“If a 16-year-old can get behind the wheel and pay taxes from their paycheck, they are also mature enough to decide how their hard-earned tax dollars are spent,” Rep. Rabhi said. “Otherwise, it’s taxation without representation.”
Opponents of lowering the voting age argue that 16-year-olds may lack the mental reasoning to make informed decisions, but have not offered conclusive data to back up this claim. Experts have suggested that “cold cognition”— a type of decision-making process used by the brain to contemplate making choices during which facts are processed along with potential positives and negatives, such as when voting — is solidified by the age of 16.