Last week, Delaware state Representative Eric Morrison filed legislation that would change the minimum voting age to 16 for school board elections. Common Cause Delaware supports this effort and urges lawmakers to pass the bill.
“HB 96 would allow 16- and 17-year-old students to vote in school board elections, allowing them to help choose the adult board members who will make decisions that directly affect them and their futures,” said Claire Snyder-Hall, executive director of Common Cause Delaware. “Getting students in the habit of voting at an early age will help instill the value of civic participation in a new generation of Delaware voters. With only 42% of Delawareans voting in the 2022 election, we could benefit from greater levels of participation.”
Since its founding, Common Cause has led the way for voting rights for all people, and it continues to support legislation that protects and expands the freedom to vote.
“Over fifty years ago, Common Cause had its first victory as an organization with the passage of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the federal voting age to 18,” said Alyssa Canty, director of youth programs at Common Cause. “Voting is the most basic and essential building block of our government, and we’re glad to see states across the country like Delaware continuing the fight to make young voices heard.”
HB 96 does not face any constitutional issues. The 26th Amendment to the U.S. constitutions says, “The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.” While no state may prohibit those who are 18 or older from voting, the Constitution does not preclude allowing people younger than 18 to vote.
Indeed, six jurisdictions in the United States have already lowered the voting age to 16 for some or all elections — yielding increases in voter turnout, with no discernible negative consequences. Berkeley and Oakland, California have lowered the voting age for their school board elections. In addition, several towns in Maryland have all lowered the voting age for all local elections.
In forwarding HB 96, Rep. Morrison builds on currently existing Delaware law. The First State (along with many other states) already allows 17-year-olds to vote in primaries, if they will turn 18 by the date of the general election. And Delaware (along with almost half the states) already allows 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, prior to becoming eligible to vote. Allowing youth voting in school board elections is a logical next step.
More information on the benefits of lowering the voting age is available here.
The bill filed by Rep. Morrison is available here: HB 96