Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Are 14 Year Olds Ready to Vote…… Responsibly?

For those that listened in to KPAM 860’s Victoria Taft program today, you heard her and I discussing this subject. Ridiculous you say? I agree, but SB 5621 is a current bill before the Senate in Olympia, introduced and supported by Seattle Democrat, Senator Scott White.

Scott, who served one term in the house and recently won the Senate seat vacated by retiring Democrat Ken Jacobsen in Washington State’s 46th legislative district said in his statement on the bill, “Kids are always forced to listen to adults, but adults can learn a lot from listening to young people.”

Uh, Scott, I think that is what goes on in a normal parent/child relationship!

The notion is being promoted by a young recent High School graduate, Jesse Seidman who says on the facebook page, Campaign to End Education Without Representation, “The current school board situation in Washington State blatantly disregards the rights of students,” and, “We are the solution to the problems the current generation has created. In order to stand a fighting chance against the injustices of today, the youth of Washington must have the nerve to stand up and say enough!”

Maybe they would like to stand up and say enough on parents paying their way, feeding and clothing them, providing them with a home, and become gainfully employed and begin paying taxes too?

Troubling about this is that every single one of us was 14 once and most of us were coming into the “teen know-it-all” years. We thought we knew what was best for us and rebelling against parents was high.

Most of us outgrew that and realized the old adage, “the older one gets, the more intelligent their parents become” is largely true.

The bill, while questionable that it will pass, would “Allow students, having attained the age of fourteen as of the date of the election, to vote in school board elections for the district in which they are enrolled and in good standing.”

While the bill mentions school boards specifically, how long before someone would challenge that and expect to be allowed to vote for mayor, city council, legislator and everything as well? After all, if they are considered mature enough to vote, even though they may not legally buy alcohol or tobacco products yet, why would they not be mature enough to vote for everything?

The 21 year-old voting age was reduced to 18 by the 26th amendment in 1971, as the Viet Nam War was winding down amid calls of “if 18 year-olds are of age to be drafted and sent to fight, they should be old enough to vote.” Many states also lowered the legal drinking age to 18 at the same time, but it was wisely raised back to 21 due to increased drunk driving fatalities by the 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act.

Additionally, we are no longer under a Military Draft and no one under the age of 18 can voluntarily enlist without parental consent. Then, only 17 year-olds might.

A similar effort in 2005, promoted by the National Youth Rights Association to lower the voting age to 16 failed.

It must also be noted that “rights” seem to be a big issue here, what with the inclusion of the quote, “Students do not shed their constitutional rights... at the schoolhouse gate” on the facebook page promoting this. The quote, taken from a 1969 Supreme Court decision, Tinker v. Des Moines had absolutely nothing to do with voting age, but with free speech in a passive protest against the Viet Nam War, students wearing black arm bands to protest.

Students as young as 14 are not currently being denied any constitutional right to vote as they don’t have that right under the constitution until they reach 18 years old.

For all of the cries of “rights,” I notice a glaring omission, “RESPONSIBILITY!”

Along with ‘rights’ comes ‘responsibility.’ Nowhere in this do I see a call for ending juvenile protective laws or 14 year olds being emancipated and becoming responsible for themselves, no longer relying on parents to provide for them.

Nowhere do I see any call that they should be held accountable as adults, fending for themselves.

It is ludicrous to think a 14 year old could be self sufficient, but if they are mature enough to vote, shouldn’t they be ready to be self sufficient as well?

That Democrats are backing this bill is no surprise. It is common knowledge that younger people, for the most part, lean left and seek the path of least resistance. Who of us enjoyed academic challenges in school? Who of us enjoyed really tough tests?

But, we went through it. We learned and matured due to those teachers that challenged us and encouraged us.

How many 14 year olds do you think would support and vote for a school board candidate that intends to give them a stringent curriculum and challenge them as schools once were?

Oddly enough, Senator White, who says how impressed he is with this “group of bright and organized young people,” has two other bills introduced concerning young people. SB 5016 would ban smoking in cars with children under the age of 18 in them and SB 5380 banning flavored smokeless tobacco.

Of the latter White says, “My primary objective with regard to regulating the tobacco industry in Washington is to ensure that we do all we can to keep kids tobacco-free. Most people who use tobacco products pick up the habit before age 18, and evidence suggests that young people who consume tobacco products are more likely to use alcohol, get poor grades, and skip school, than their peers.”

Yet, he feels these same kids should be freely allowed to vote for the school board? Shouldn’t they also be trusted to make the right decision in regards to tobacco use as well? If they are that easily swayed, wouldn’t there be the danger that their vote could be unfairly swayed?

White goes on to say, “However, irrespective of one’s position on the issue or the likelihood that the bill will pass, it is certainly worth having a conversation about this issue.”

Senator, that conversation can be held without wasting the Senates time on such silliness as this.

After all, isn’t there more important matters before the Senate, such as naming a state rock?

Oh, that $4.5 Billion budget gap we face? That’s not an urgent matter, right?

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