Guest Opinion

Should 16-year-olds be able to vote?


March 16, 2023 | View PDF

For Devon Lawson-McCourt the answer is yes. He’s the sophomore class president at the McKenzie River Community School who strongly supports three bills up for consideration by Oregon legislators.

House Joint Resolution 20: “I believe that every citizen, should have the opportunity to shape the future of our community through their vote. By allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to participate in elections, we can encourage our youth to become more engaged in the political process and to take an active role in shaping the decisions that will impact their lives. I am the Legislative Advocate and writer of HJR 20 and am working directly with State Rep. Hoa Nguyen on this bill. Below you can find a PDF copy of the testimony I provided to the House Rules Committee bout HJR 20 on Feb. 21st.”

House Bill 3206: It is essential that young people have a say in decisions that directly affect their education and their future. High school students are not just passive recipients of education but active participants who have unique insights and perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing their schools. Allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in school board elections will help ensure that their voices are heard and that their concerns are taken seriously. It will also encourage young people to engage more actively in civic life and foster a sense of ownership and responsibility in their schools and communities. If HJR 20 does not pass, I will be working with Rep. Ben Bowman and dedicating my time to this bill.

House Bill 2004: “I whole-heartedly support Oregon House Bill 2004, which introduces ranked choice voting as a procedure for choosing election winners. Using ranked choice voting, voters can rank candidates according to their preferences, ensuring that the winner will have the support of the majority of voters. This is a big improvement for democracy in Oregon since it fosters greater electoral involvement and participation, diversity of candidates and viewpoints, and the removal of the “spoiler effect” that can occur in traditional voting systems. I thank the Oregon legislature for taking this crucial step toward improving the representation of popular will in our elections, and I eagerly anticipate the great effects it will have.”

House Bill 2107: “This bill is a critical step in ensuring that everyone can participate in and benefit from our democracy. We can help make sure that more people have a voice in our government and the decisions that have an impact on their lives by automatically registering eligible voters who engage with the Oregon Health Authority. This is crucial for disadvantaged minorities who could have obstacles getting to the ballot box.

Senate Bill 579: “This bill is a crucial step towards ensuring that everyone, regardless of their past mistakes, has access to their fundamental right to vote. Denying individuals who have been incarcerated the right to vote perpetuates systemic inequalities and unfairly disenfranchises a significant portion of our population. By granting incarcerated individuals the right to vote, we are not only promoting a more just and equitable society, but we are also empowering individuals to participate in the democratic process and make their voices heard.”


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