Student Council

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wants your teenager to vote for president.

That’s right. They seriously want kids to go to the polls. Of course, they’ll have to go alone, because they’re not allowed to drive their friends.

These are pupils who, as even their teachers admit, have a terrible education in civics. (Leave aside the questionable civic literacy of the Democrats responsible for trying to change a constitutional standard through regular legislation.)

One suspects that even Pelosi realizes this idea is before its time and will require a fair amount of progressive habituation before it sounds credible to enough people to be taken seriously.

Enter the Colorado Democrats, always willing to turn their constituents into canaries in the coal mine. Or falcons in the windmill, as it were.

Since you have to start someplace, State Senator Dominick Moreno and State Representative James Coleman have proposed letting 16-year-olds vote in school board elections.

Put bluntly, the bill would allow kids who aren’t old enough to transfer title to real estate to vote to raise their parents’ property taxes.

On the upside, the in-home practical educational opportunities abound. “Here, let me show you this thing called a budget. Watch carefully when we increase the line called ‘mortgage escrow.’ See how the line called ‘student-activity fee’ disappears?” Or, “Sure, kid, we’d love to help you out with college. Too bad that mill levy increase passed last year.”

Look, I was 16 once. I followed politics more closely than almost any of my classmates, in a largely middle-class high school in the northern Virginia suburbs, where government was the local business and politics the second-favorite spectator sport. I took International Baccalaureate U.S. History. I worked on election campaigns.

There was some sort of student non-voting advisory representative to the school board’s curriculum committee that the administration asked me to fill. I was only too happy to do that, understanding that the real-life decisions were going to be made by the real adults in the room. It was my job to be a constructive advisor, not a voting member.

If there existed any student who might have justified lowering the voting age, it would have been me in my senior year.

So let me be as clear as I possibly can: There is no way in hell I was qualified to cast an actual ballot in an actual election for actual public office.

Sixteen-year-olds know virtually nothing. This doesn’t mean they’re stupid, it means they have no real-world experience and precious little context for the little they do know.

They can, by virtue of intelligent ignorance, force us to clarify our thoughts and our explanations. Occasionally, they can bring new information to the table that causes us to rethink things substantially.

But no, that’s not enough to justify giving them a bona fide vote.

I look back at how I was in high school, and engaged as I was, I thank God that my teachers and parents had patience with my black-and-white judgmentalism about situations and real-life tradeoffs with which I had no experience and no real capacity to judge. It was great they took me seriously enough to try to teach me and that they knew I’d have to find out for myself how little I knew. It would have been catastrophic to hand me or any of my classmates a vote in a real election.

You want 16-year-olds voting? That’s what student government is for.

You object: “But people who run for student council are all Tracy Flick!”

Yes, and your point is? Have your seen any of the people running for office? What better training for voting could you imagine?

And this is before we get to teachers campaigning in the classroom.

Which, of course, is what this is really all about.

Photo Credit: Mark Makela/Getty Images

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About Joshua Sharf

Joshua Sharf has headed the Independence Institute’s PERA Project for three years. In that time he has authored a number of Backgrounders and Issue papers on Colorado’s Public Pensions, contributed to the Institute’s weekly newspaper column, and spoken to political and civic groups across the state on the subject. He routinely testifies before the state legislature on proposed pension reform bills. He is Vice Chairman of the Denver Republican Party and has also done original reporting on PERA for Watchdog.org and I2I’s Complete Colorado news site and is a regular guest on local talk radio, discussing this and other state and national political issues. He has an MBA and an MS in Finance from the University of Denver’s Daniels School of Business, and has also worked as a sell-side equities research analyst.