Voices & Choices

Voting age discrepancy in WI highlights eager young voters

Voting age discrepancy in WI highlights eager young voters
In Grafton, Wisconsin, high school student Zachary Ziolkowski wants to cast his vote when Election Day arrives next Tuesday. He turns 18 years old on Nov. 5th (the day after Election Day), and noticed in one of this high school text books that 18-year-olds achieve adulthood in the eyes of the law on the day before their birthday. After taking his argument to Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board, he has been informed that he still will not be allowed to cast his vote in this year's midterm elections.

This unique situation caught my attention, as FairVote's Promote Our Vote project continues to study the potential for municipalities to lower the voting age for local elections to 16 years old. While doing so would not resolve the ever-present issue of young citizens who come of voting age the day after an election, there is some insight to gain from this situation. Quite simply: young people do care about the issues at stake in elections and want to vote!

As voter turnout in local elections continues to dive to historic lows, communities need to have a conversation about reviving civic engagement and bringing more voices to the table. Policies like lowering the voting age have the potential to tap into a pool of eager young voices like Zachary Ziolkowski, as well as build up a sustainable and engaged electorate that has roots in a community. The idea of 16-year-olds voting in local elections is perhaps jarring at first. However, when we put faces on these young potential voters and realize there are more Zachary's in our communities, we must consider the positive impact that lowering the voting age would have on our local democracies.

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