Group aims to strengthen civics curriculum, expand voting in local school board elections

LANSING — Members of Vote16MI, a group supporting youth voting rights, joined state Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) and state Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) today to announce legislation that would expand voting rights for 16- and 17-year-olds and expand curricula on the mechanics of democracy.

“While many adults overlook the importance of school boards, young people who are directly affected by school board decisions do not have a voice or a vote,” said Luka Todorovik, an 11th-grade student at Rochester High School and a board member of Vote16MI. “High school students like me have our whole education at stake and a great deal of first-hand knowledge of how our schools are being administered. We are informed, passionate and committed to our communities. We deserve to vote in the elections that impact our day-to-day lives.”

“If there’s one thing we learned from the contentious aftermath of the 2020 election, it’s that we could all benefit from having more information on the nuts and bolts of the democratic process,” said Andrew Kim, an 11th-grade student at Novi High School and the president of NHS’ Politics Club. “This bill will empower Michigan students to participate in democracy by ensuring that they learn practical details, like how to participate in a public meeting or register to vote.”

Rabhi and Irwin introduced identical legislation in their respective chambers. The joint resolution, House Joint Resolution P/Senate Joint Resolution L, would put before voters the question of whether to amend the state constitution to let school districts opt into allowing 16- and 17-year-old students to vote in local school board elections. The bill, House Bill 5857/Senate Bill 886, would direct the State Board of Education to develop curriculum standards that ensure students are introduced to applied civics topics early on. Students would learn about voting and running for office by the end of third grade, about branches of government and election administration by the end of eighth grade, and about practical democratic skills, like registering to vote and contacting a legislator, by the end of 11th grade.

“Empowering young people to vote from an early age will set them on a path to lifelong engagement in the democratic process,” Irwin said. “Young people are the ones who will have to live the longest with the consequences of decisions made today. Once they see how their vote matters in their own school district, they will be inspired to continue participating in future elections, as voters and as candidates.”

“One of the great things about public education is that it prepares students to be active and informed citizens,” Rabhi said. “But citizenship isn’t just about high ideals — it’s also about understanding how votes are counted, how districts are drawn or how to run for office. This curriculum standard will ensure all Michigan students are prepared for their rights and responsibilities in our democracy.”

“In these divisive times, young people deserve hands-on experience with local government to be more well-rounded, active citizens in the future,” said Krisha Ramani, an 11th-grade student at Novi High School and a board member of Vote16MI.