LANSING, Mich. — The unprecedented outpouring of activism from students after the shooting at Marjorie Douglas Stoneman High School in Parkland, Fla., in February is the genesis for a bill introduced in the Legislature this week that would change the voting age in Michigan to 16.
"We allow 16-year-olds to go off and get jobs and pay taxes, but we fail to allow them to exercise their voice come election time," said Sen. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights. "Young people are setting aside their differences and identifying issues they think need to change. And they can do everything to get that change except vote."
The shooting at Parkland, which left 17 students and teachers dead, prompted multiple school walk outs and large demonstrations across the nation by students calling for more gun control.
The bills, simultaneously introduced in both the House and Senate, would also require a change in the federal and state constitutions, which would require a super majority in the House and the Senate, which is unlikely in the Republican-controlled state Legislature, and a vote of the people. To change the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Congress would have to pass the change and send it back to the states for ratification. The last time the voting age was changed — from 21 to 18 — was 1971.
"People are trying to turn this into a partisan issue, but it’s a voting issue," Knezek said. "It’s integral in ensuring our democracy can survive in the United States."
If you're torn on whether you want to see teens in voting booths, there's an episode of "The West Wing" that tackles both sides of the debate.
In an impassioned plea in the Season 6 episode, students try to convince fictional White House Communications Director Toby Ziegler, played by Richard Schiff, that it's time to abolish the country's voting age requirement.
The teens say they have no voice in government and are powerless. They argue they should have the right to vote since they're eligible to receive fixed prison sentences.
Ziegler counters that adults have reasoning and children are subject to coercion, but the kids fight back, saying that same thought process was used to keep women from voting.
The debate heats up throughout the episode.
Follow Kathleen Gray on Twitter: @MichPoliGal