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Utah News

Cache County Lawmakers Weigh In On Bill Allowing 16, 17-Year-Olds To Vote In School Board Elections

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H.B. 338 would allow 16- and 17-year-old students  to vote in local school board elections. It was developed by Arundhati Oommen, a junior at West Valley High School who serves as the student representative on the Salt Lake City School Board. Oomen was frustrated that students like her don’t have a voice in local school board elections. Her bill, which Rep. Joel Briscoe is sponsoring, would allow school districts the option of letting students like like Oommen participate in board elections

Rep. Dan Johnson said he’s impressed with her civil engagement. 

 

"And she's not an activist. She's just a really bright, hard working kid that really enjoys civic engagement,” said Johnson.

 

Johnson said the actions taken by Oommen are exactly what many people want their kids to do. Still, he isn’t quite sure how he feels about the bill.

 

“I'm not exactly sure that I would vote for it. But I think what she has done, where she's come from, why she did it, is exactly the kind of thing that you want people doing. She's not down demonstrating or trying to start a riot or you're standing on the corner with signs,” said Johnson.

 

Rep. Mike Peterson said he’s received hundreds of emails about people really concerned about the bill. He does not like the idea and does not plan on voting for the bill. 

 

Rep. Joel Ferry agreed. He believes voting should have a standard age for all elections. 

“I think that it's important that our youngsters know and can get involved, can understand and know about our process, and learn the importance of voting," he said. "I don't want to start cherry picking which elections someone can and can't vote in. And so if the age is 18, it's 18. If we want to adjust it to 16, let's adjust it to 16 for everything. Let's have that discussion as a broader base. I'm going to vote to keep it the way it is."