In the last 30 years, voter turnout among young people has plummeted in New York and around the country. This problem, which poses a serious threat to the sustainability and strength of our democratic processes, is nowhere more severe than in local and statewide elections. Among the many proposed solutions to this problem of voter apathy and disengagement in our political system, the Young Voter Act is the most promising. The Young Voter Act, created with Assemblyman Robert Carroll, and sponsored in the New York State Senate by Senator Hoylman, would lower the voting age to 17 in state and local elections, introduce eight days of nuts-and-bolts civics into the high school curriculum, and provide students with the opportunity to complete voter preregistration forms in their classrooms.
Lowering the voting age to 17 is a sound proposal. First, 17-year-olds already share many of the responsibilities of adulthood: they pay taxes on the jobs that many of them hold, they can drive motor vehicles, and they have the ability to enlist in the military. It is only fair to allow these hardworking, taxpaying citizens to have a voice as to how their tax dollars are spent. Second, many 17 year-old New Yorkers are experiencing our public education system first-hand and have a unique understanding of education. They deserve a voice in shaping their educational system, their criminal justice system, and the political system at large. Third, when Austria, Scotland, Brazil, and even a city in Maryland lowered the voting age, voter turnout among young people soared. So, perhaps most importantly, allowing students to vote at 17 can also produce healthy voter habits that will last a lifetime, fostering a new generation of civically engaged New York voters.
That is why we, the undersigned residents and voters of New York, ask that Governor Andrew Cuomo publicly voice his support of the Young Voter Act (A.6839 and A.6840 and S.5646) to both the people of the State of New York and to the State Senators and Assemblymembers of the State of New York, that Speaker Heastie and Election Law Committee Chair Charles Lavine work to move the Young Voter Act to a vote on the floor of the Assembly, and that Senator Flanagan, Senator Klein, and Senator Ashkar work to bring the Young Voter Act to a vote in the Elections committee and to the floor of the State Senate.