By Emma Davis
Youth Volunteer, ACLU of Colorado
October 15, 2018
Since the 2016 election, I have been active in the ACLU of Colorado. I’ve lobbied, phone-banked, spoken at events and been to countless protests. During the legislative session, I am constantly visiting state legislators, talking to aides and working to convince our representatives to vote “yes” or “no” on certain bills. But I’m still just a teenager. Right now, my opportunities are limited, but someday, I hope to become a state lawmaker. I want to represent the people of Colorado, and think it is incredibly important to have young and fresh perspectives in our legislature.
Unfortunately, as of now, it will be a while before I get to do that. Currently, the Colorado Constitution says that to become a state legislator, you must be at least 25 years of age. This restricts the age of our representatives and discourages young people from getting involved in politics. It cuts off new perspectives and fresh ideas from being introduced at our state Capitol. We need to fix this.
Amendment V provides a way to solve this problem. Earlier this year, state legislators proposed a bill that would amend the state constitution, lowering the age from twenty-five to twenty-one. It was then placed on the state ballot for the upcoming November election. We are one of only seven states in the U.S. with a minimum age of more than twenty-one for members of the legislature. We need to follow the examples of other states that recognize how important it is to give young adults a voice in their state assemblies. Alabama passed an amendment in 2016 that removed age restrictions on government officials. In Alabama’s 2014 general election, adults aged 18-29 represented only 12% of the vote. In the 2017 Alabama Special U.S. Senate Election, 23% of young adults turned out to vote. Perhaps this dramatic rise in young voter turnout could be related to youth feeling like they not only have a voice at the voting booth but feel more intimately tied to the whole political process. With more opportunities to get involved in state politics, teens and young adults are more likely to vote and to become politically active. If Colorado adopts Amendment V, it will bring fresh perspectives and new ideas to the Capitol.
Broadening the perspectives and ideas on the Colorado legislature is an extremely important issue that needs to be dealt with. According to Ballotpedia, in 2015 our representatives were, on average, fifty-five years old, or nearly ten years older than the average Colorado adult. This is not an accurate representation of our population. With new and younger senators and representatives, there would be an increase in youth political participation and a chance to give young adults a voice in the most important issues our state is facing.
Opponents of Amendment V say that young adults under the age of twenty-five lack the maturity to make legislation. Critics think that young adults don’t have enough “life experience.” However, according to Colorado State Representative James Coleman, “If you can go fight in the military and you have to make critical decisions in the field of battle, then [lawmaking] is not hard…Serving in the military is hard. Getting shot at is hard.”
Decisions that our legislators make will have lasting impacts on young people and future generations. Young adults should have a seat at the table when our state government considers legislation pertaining to education, civil rights, data privacy, our state’s environmental concerns, and many more pressing issues.
Passage of Amendment V in Colorado is a way to invest in our state’s future by bringing the voice of young adults into many vital conversations. Let’s allow younger perspectives to be heard in Colorado. Let’s vote “yes” on Amendment V.