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Letting 16-Year-Olds Vote
This is a Constitutional question

Regarding eligibility for voting, Article II of the Oregon Constitution, is pretty clear:

(1) Every citizen of the United States is entitled to vote in all elections not otherwise provided for by this Constitution if such citizen:
(a) Is 18 years of age or older;
(b) Has resided in this state during the six months immediately preceding the election, except that provision may be made by law to permit a person who has resided in this state less than 30 days immediately preceding the election, but who is otherwise qualified under this subsection, to vote in the election for candidates for nomination or election for President or Vice President of the United States or elector of President and Vice President of the United States; and
(c) Is registered not less than 20 calendar days immediately preceding any election in the manner provided by law.

SB 776, introduced by Senator Michael Dembrow (D-Portland) looks to undermine the constitution and shift who can vote in school board of director elections. The bill would change a section of law, not the constitution, and permit individuals who are 16 or 17 years of age to cast ballots specifically in school district elections. Within the bill Section 2 reads:

(1) Notwithstanding ORS 247.016(2) or 255.005(6), an individual may vote in all school district elections, including the nomination and election of school directors, if the individual:
(a) Is 16 or 17 years of age;
(b) Has registered to vote in the manner described in ORS 247.012;
(c) Resides at an address that is within the geographic boundaries of the area eligible to cast ballots in the school district election.

What this means is, to vote in a school board election an individual only needs to be over 16 years of age, register to vote more than 20 days prior to the election, typically prior to the May Special Districts Elections, and reside within the school district boundaries.

The constitutional undermining portion of SB 776 is where it references ORS 255.005(6). This statute contains the definitions used in laws governing school board elections. Section 6 defines elector as:

(6) an individual qualified to vote under section 2, Article II, Oregon Constitution

The age in the constitution is 18. This bill is making an exception to the Oregon Constitution and changes the voting age for a specific public office.

There are also other potential consequences in the bill. In the laws that govern who is eligible to seek office as a school board member (director), it states in ORS 332.018:

(2) No person shall be eligible to serve as director unless the person is an elector of the district and has resided therein for the period of one year immediately preceding the election or appointment.

The question needs to be asked, does changing the meaning of elector in SB 776 also change the definition of elector for who is now eligible to serve as a school board member? Maybe that question will be asked and answered when the bill receives a hearing March 11th in the Senate Committee on Rules.

--Terese Humboldt

Post Date: 2021-03-08 16:04:32Last Update: 2021-03-08 16:25:29

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