One of our student had the opportunity to speak at a legislative secession this week. The following is her response to House Bill 1294:
Mr. or Madam Chair and members of the committee, I am ... from Onalaska High School. I am here representing the Legislative Youth Advisory Council, I support HB 1294.
I have heard many complaints about this bill and I would like to address them.
To vote in Washington State you have to be: A resident of Washington, A U.S. citizen, At least 18 years old by the time of the election, cannot have felony convictions or can’t have a court order saying they can’t vote. Nowhere in here does it say that being an uninformed voter will prohibit you from voting. The constitution states “Who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of age” Being young doesn’t make you an uninformed voter. Voting yes or no to this bill based on the belief that young voters are “uninformed” seems like a type of poll tax in disguise trying to restrict certain groups from voting. With that being said, in 2014 only 74.79% of eligible citizens have registered to vote. Meaning that we are losing 25.21% of Washington’s voters. Having youth pre-register to vote will only increase these numbers and voter turnout.
When youth register to vote -- they might move and their ballot will then be mailed to a random address and it could be filled out by someone else -- false voting. According to News21, part of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education, there have only been 35 KNOWN cases of voter fraud since 2000. Typically we hear about preventing voter fraud but from my research it does not appear to be as much of a concern as it is made out to be.
2) The organization that distributes ballots simply can't handle the increase. Plus it would cost a lot of money.
Counter: Six states and the District of Columbia have passed laws to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote. If they can do it why can’t we? King County has indicated that implementing preregistration “would not be a problem”. As for the cost, this is not just about getting youth to vote, but encouraging the next generation of voters to become involved with their local, state and national governments. We HAVE to do something about voter turnout because if we don’t, at this rate, we aren’t going to have any voters left.
I believe that this bill will help to address many voter issues that Washington is currently facing. Thank you for your time.