Christine Bynum, 17, can be charged and sentenced as an adult, drive on interstates with adults, work and pay income tax, but she can’t vote.
Bynum, daughter of state Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Happy Valley, went to the Capitol on Feb. 18 to urge legislators to change that.
“If I can be tried as an adult, why can’t I vote like an adult?” said Bynum, who attends La Salle High School in Milwaukie, during a press conference Monday at the Capitol. “I pay income tax like an adult. I drive like an adult. I can be charged and sentenced as an adult. Why is something so important such as voting limited to people who are our present and not our future?”
State Sen. Shemia Fagan, D-Portland, has proposed legislation to place a measure on the Oregon ballot in November 2020 to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote. It could make Oregon the first state to open up voting to people younger than 18, Fagan said.
The proposal piggybacks on a national movement, Vote 16 USA, which campaigns for lowering the voting age to 16.
No states have decreased the voting age to 16, but places such as Takoma Park, Maryland, and Berkeley, California, have allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to participate in certain local elections.
Fagan said she sponsored the legislation because, while she was canvassing for election, she encountered voters who said they wanted to decrease the voting age.
That wasn’t long after 17 students died in a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day 2018.
The shooting sparked a movement by students, who can’t vote, for gun policy reform.
“After the horrific shooting, the nation … watched as that generation stood up to the most powerful people in the world to say enough is enough,” Fagan said.
In 2017, Oregon legislators passed a law that allowed those at least 16 to pre-register to vote. The law was intended to reinforce information the teens learn in civics classes in Oregon schools.