Sec of state wants teens in capitol

Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury introduced a resolution to lower the age requirement for the state legislature. If House Joint Resolution 16 passes it would amend the Oregon Constitution to lower the age requirement for service from 21 to 18.

In a press conference last Wednesday, Bradbury introduced two visiting legislators as “perfect examples of the reason we should reduce the age requirement for the state legislature.” State Representatives Jesse Laslovich, 20, of Montana, and Jason Barney, 25, of Vermont, are visiting Oregon to advocate the passage of HJR 16.

The House Rules and Redistricting committee held a hearing on the resolution following Bradbury’s press conference. The hearing “went really well,” said Marian Hammond, secretary for Bradbury. Representative Wilson surveyed the house numbers and decided to schedule a work session for the resolution.

This idea was brought to the secretary of state’s attention by an unknown Portland State student at a town hall meeting a year ago. The student asked Bradbury, if 18-year-olds can vote and serve in the military, then why can’t they serve in the in the legislature?

“This student’s simple question started the ball rolling,” Hammond said.

“This resolution isn’t just about changing a simple age requirement – it’s about being consistent in the opportunities for civic involvement that we provide to legal adults,” Bradbury wrote in a press release.

Bradbury speaks of a need for consistency because the state treasurer’s and attorney general’s offices have the age limit set at 18.

Seventeen states, including California, Washington and Washingto D.C. already allow legislators to serve at age 18. In a 1996 study, those 17 states had a five-percent increase in younger voters.

There were a few doubts about the resolution in the beginning. Some older representatives thought that the legislature would be overrun with 18-year-olds. Representative Bruce Starr said that they won’t “be overrun with 18-year-olds, any more than it is full of 21-year-olds now.”

Bradbury concluded the press conference by saying, “Young people are registering and voting at significantly lower levels than their older counterparts, and that is a serious problem. Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders. We need to do everything we can to engage them in the political process.”