By Erica Meltzer, Chalkbeat Colorado
A coalition of youth advocates is pushing Colorado to allow most high school juniors and seniors to vote in school board elections.
“Students are experts in their own education,” said Tezcatli Diaz, director of youth civic engagement for Student Voice, Student Vote, one of the groups calling for the change. “A lot of people on boards of education have not been in school in decades or have not had children in school in decades.”
A bill sponsored by state Sen. Dominick Moreno, who also serves on the Adams 14 school board, and state Rep. James Coleman, both Democrats, would make Colorado the first state in the nation to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in school board elections. The officials who oversee Colorado’s elections said they understand the desire to expand the franchise, but they also have some practical concerns.
The push comes amid a wave of youth activism on everything from climate change to immigration and amid national conversations about lowering the voting age for presidential and other elections. The city of Takoma Park, Maryland, in 2013 lowered the voting age for municipal elections, and several countries, including Austria and Brazil, have set the voting age at 16.
House Bill 1243, scheduled for its first hearing April 2 in the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee, would also let 16- and 17-year-olds vote for officers on the State Board of Education and in elections to increase school district taxes or to issue debt for construction.