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Politics and Government

Proposal to let 16-year-olds vote in Colorado school board elections advances

The bill calls for the change to go into effect by July 2021

A 2018 Colorado ballot. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

The next time candidates campaign for school board seats in Colorado, they might have a new voting bloc to consider.

Legislation that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local school board elections cleared the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday. That same committee voted down similar legislation last year amid concerns from county clerks, who run these elections, and the Colorado Association of School Boards. Some have questioned if the idea is constitutional.

Young people “are persistent,” said state Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, a Denver Democrat and the bill’s sponsor. “They are highly intelligent. I have full confidence in their ability to make the right decisions.”

Even lawmakers who voted yes said they have concerns about putting it into effect and urged backers to keep working with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office to reduce the cost and modify timelines.

The bill calls for the change to go into effect by July 2021, before the next school board elections, while the Secretary of State’s Office is asking for four years.

Gonzales-Gutierrez said that’s too long. The students who spent years advocating for the change wouldn’t get to benefit.

The proposal is backed by Student Voice, Student Vote, a coalition of youth advocacy groups.

Read more at chalkbeat.org.