Senator Moves to Lower Oregon Voter Age to 16

Oregon could be the first state in the nation to lower its voting age from 18 to 16 if a group of lawmakers and students have their way.

Portland-D State Sen. Shemia Fagan has introduced a bill to put the question to Oregon voters in 2020. At a press conference, Fagan said, “It’s time to lower the voting age in Oregon and to give our young people a chance to participate in the ballot, about their decisions that affect their homes, their clean air, their future, their schools and as we’ve seen, their very lives.”

Fagan also pointed out it was students the led the nationwide conversation about gun laws after the Parkland, Florida high school shootings left 17 dead. A number of students appeared with Fagan at the news conference, one saying, “When we have a lockdown and fear for our lives, we know what that feels like. We want to take agency over our own lives.”

Opposing the idea, Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger, Jr., said, “16-year-olds are too young to enlist in the military, too young to own firearms, too young to own property, too young to enter into legal contracts, and too young to get married. But they are old enough to vote?” he wrote in a statement. “People are not legally considered adults in this country until they are 18 years old, and I believe they shouldn’t be able to vote until then either. This is nothing more than an attempt to expand the voter rolls to sway elections.”

If voters ultimately decide to amend Oregon’s constitution, the lower voting age would probably apply only to state and local elections.