Posted by Adam Fogel on May 12, 2008I was in Pittsburgh, PA last week testifying on a 17-year-old primary voting bill at Fox Chapel High School. The State Government Committee has held three hearings over the past couple of months to hear from young people across the commonwealth about why 17-year-olds who will be 18 on or before the general election should have the right to vote in the corresponding primary.
I arrived about a half hour before the hearing was set to begin and it was exactly what I expected: a quiet hearing room with a table up front, a few staffers preparing the packet of testimony for their bosses and a room full of empty chairs. As the time passed, something strange happened--people started showing up. First a few students from Fox Chapel High School, then a class of students from a neighboring school, and then another and another. By the time the hearing started, over 100 students from across western Pennsylvania packed the room, some driving as far as an hour and a half in Pittsburgh rush hour traffic.
I was amazed by the commitment these students demonstrated to sit through a two hour hearing about voting rights. For all the talk we always hear about youth apathy and their not showing up on Election Day, I can attest that these young people have a genuine interest in participating in the political process. The students who testified were articulate and their arguments were sharp. One legislator asked, "Do you think 17-year-olds are mature enough to vote?" But after seeing the passion these students showed about this issue, I don't think there's any question that they certainly are.