Proposal would let some age 17 vote
Youths who will be 18 before November election could partake in primary.

By Charlie Cain
Published July 6th 2007 in Detroit News Online

LANSING -- The sponsor of a proposal to extend voting rights to some 17-year-olds in Michigan says he thinks chances of its passage are growing.

"We have had some feedback that 17-year-olds aren't mature enough to vote. But many of them are intelligent and bright people who are more than capable, more capable then many adults who aren't paying close attention," said Rep. Bill Caul, R-Mount Pleasant.

"Lowering the voting age will also encourage more young people to get involved. New ideas and mindsets will help invigorate debate in Michigan."

Under Caul's proposal, 17-year-olds would be allowed to vote in a primary if they'll turn 18 before the November general election. The 2000 Census found there were about 143,500 17-year-olds in Michigan.

The resolution, awaiting a vote in the House Ethics and Elections Committee, would have to be approved by a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate. If that happens, voters will decide the amendment in November 2008.

The last time the voting age was changed was in 1971, after states ratified the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting 18- to 20-year-olds the right to vote. It came during the height of opposition to the Vietnam War, when many argued it wasn't fair to draft 18-year-olds, but not allow them to vote.

A Pew Research Center report last year said 22 percent of those in the 18-29 age group vote regularly -- 13 to 20 percentage points below voter participation in other age groups.

Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land has reservations. "She certainly appreciates any attempt to draw more young voters into the process," said her spokesman, Ken Silfven. "But this proposal raises some interesting constitutional issues. You have to be 18 to vote on federal things like president and Congress," he said. "That begs the question: How do you get around that if you have 17-year-olds voting in a primary? Do you have to have two separate ballots?"

What's next
A resolution to allow 17-year-olds to vote in a primary election if they will turn 18 before the November general election is now before the House Ethics and Elections Committee. To become part of the Michigan Constitution these steps would have to occur:

  • At least two-thirds of the members of the Michigan House and Senate must vote in favor of the resolution
  • Then, Michigan voters would be asked to decide the resolution' s fate in November 2008.