On Saturday in the House Government, Elections, and Indian Affairs Committee, a bipartisan group of representatives tabled H.B. 217 by Reps. Christine Trujillo (D-Bernalillo) and Christina Ortez (D-Taos). The bill would have allowed 16 and 17-year-olds to vote.
The bill also notes that 17-year-olds would be allowed to vote in state primaries if they are 18 by the time the primary election is over. “For the purposes of a political primary, 17-year-olds may also currently vote if they will turn 18 on or before the general election immediately succeeding that primary election,” reads the fiscal impact report (FIR) for the bill, which implies that even in federal elections the minor could vote.
The FIR further notes that this move could likely increase Democrat voter turnout, according to Tufts University.
It reads, “[I]t should be noted Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life find that 63 percent of voters aged 18 to 29 nationally voted for democratic candidates in the House of Representative elections, so it is possible that allowing 16-year-olds to vote as provided for in HB217 could result in a disproportionate increase in turnout for democratic candidates. However, it is unclear whether this is because 16-year-old Democrats are more likely to turn out to vote or that 16-year-olds are more likely to be Democratic-leaning. Further, data does not indicate whether the turnout from youth voters (ages 18 to 29) effectively changed the results of prior elections.”
Rep. John Block (R-Alamogordo) noted a scientific study by Tak Wing Chan, Ph.D., and Matthew Clayton, D.Phil., which read, “research in neuroscience suggests that the brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex, is still undergoing major reconstruction and development during the teenage years.” He said he was going to be “following the science” and reject the bill.
The bill ultimately died on a tie 4-4 vote, with Reps. Block, Bill Rehm (R-Albuquerque), D. Wonda Johnson (D-Rehoboth), and Martin Zamora (R-Santa Rosa) all voting against the bill.
Similar bills in the past have shared similar fates, with science proving that 16 and 17-year-olds would not be appropriate qualified electors.