Colorado lawmaker to propose allowing voters as young as 16 to take part in school board elections

A Colorado lawmaker thinks a key constituency should have a greater say about who serves on local school boards: students.

State Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Longmont Democrat, confirmed to Chalkbeat that he intends to introduce legislation next year that would give local school boards the freedom to set the voting age as low as 16 for their elections. The current minimum voting age — for federal races as well as state and local races in Colorado — is 18.

Singer is scheduled to detail his plans Friday during a keynote address at a breakfast benefit for Project VOYCE, a nonprofit that works to help public school students become advocates for education, according to a news release from the group.

The proposed legislation has been three years in the making, Singer said.

“I can’t think of a better place to actually involve our students than in local school board elections,” Singer said Wednesday.

If Singer’s proposed bill becomes law, the first time 16-year-olds could vote for a school board race would be 2019.

“This will force a conversation at the school board level to really ask the question of how much do we value our 16- and 17-year-olds who are going to become adults very soon,” Singer said. “They’re both the consumer and the product of our education system, so they have the most at stake.”

While rare, some local governments have taken similar steps, including Takoma Park, Md., which in 2013 lowered its minimum voting age to 16. Sixteen-year-olds will be able to vote in school board elections in Berkeley, Calif., starting in 2018; a similar proposal failed in San Francisco last year.

In Boulder, members of the city’s Youth Opportunities Advisory Board have pressed for lowering the voting age in municipal elections as a way to encourage civic engagement at a younger age.