Students Take on Legislation that Would Allow for 16-Year-Old Voter Registration

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Students in Omaha South High School’s Character In Action (CIA) service learning class have been working with State Senator Amanda McGill to take on the organizing and drafting and introduction of LB 127 which would allow 16-year-olds to be able to register to vote.

Over the past few months, these students have conducted research, worked to build a supportive community coalition, and met with legislative staff, community organizers, Senator McGill, and a bill drafter to discuss and begin the drafting process. Students will soon prepare to testify before the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee on the bill.

This project has allowed students to become more involved in their state government, experience policy research, and become well versed on how government works. The bill, if passed, will allow students to become engaged at an earlier age and provide teachers with another tool to make government and politics more relevant to students.

Service Learning Sponsor Matthew Curtis has helped lead this project and stated: "The future of our democracy lies in the hands of our young people. This bill is more than allowing 16-year-olds the right to register to vote. This bill will re-energize our young people in the political process." Students like Omaha South Senior Shayn Dow have been enthusiastic and engaged in this project from the beginning. "Allowing 16-year-olds the right to register to vote will politically strengthen the youth of Nebraska. This bill will spark the involvement of teens in our democracy,” Dow stated.

Currently, six other states allow 16-year-olds to register to vote (Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, North Carolina and Rhode Island). In many of these states, being able to preregister has translated into a higher voting turnout rate for younger voters. The legal voting age will remain at 18, but this bill would give Nebraska’s youth an outlet to start critically thinking about and exercising their civic duties at a younger age.

Adam Morfeld, executive director of Nebraskans for Civic Reform stated, “Expanding opportunities for our youth to begin to think critically about political participation and be engaged in the process is critical to a robust and representative democracy.” Nebraskans for Civic Reform has helped organized speakers to meet with the class about the legislative process, worked with them on how to build coalitions, and provided other support.