SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico state lawmakers want to lower the voting age in the state to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in state, county, and city elections. Democrat sponsors say if you’re old enough to have a job and pay taxes, you should be old enough to vote.
“We have kids that actually work and pay taxes and they don’t have a voice in their future. This bill, as Kristina and I discussed, is to make sure that their voice is heard,” says Representative Christine Trujillo (D-Albuquerque).
“To really, you know, give our young people the voice that they need to talk about the major issues – especially around climate change, around LGBTQA+ issues. You know, we are making decisions for them, without them,” adds Representative Kristina Ortez, (D-Taos).
Sponsored by both Trujillo and Ortez, House Bill 217 deals with who is allowed to cast a vote under the Constitution of New Mexico and the Constitution of the United States. This bill changes that definition to anyone 16 years old or older. That would only allow them to vote in state, city, or county elections since federal law mandates you must be 18 years old to vote for a federal office.
Representative Ortez says this takes up the issue of taxation without representation. “If you can pay taxes, you should be able to vote,” says Ortez.
Both representatives also addressed concerns people may have about lowering the age this young. “I think that we saw this argument come in, you know, when the voting age was reduced to 18, right? Lots of folks were like, ‘these kids can’t make these decisions.’ But the data does not support that. Right? And what we also did when that happened – lowering the voting age to 18 – is that they became chronic voters,” Ortez says.
“These kids can gather information, can self-educate, can make decisions. Sometimes they need guidance, of course. I think more so than not. But when they have a strong opinion, it’s really interesting to see how they debate it,” Trujillo says.
Some Republican lawmakers tell News 13 they don’t like the idea but declined to be on camera.
House Bill 217 is set to be discussed in front of the House Government, Elections, and Indian Affairs Committee.
Both representatives tell News 13 they’re hopeful this bill makes it into law, but say if it doesn’t, they hope it opens up the conversation about this topic. “What we have decided is that it is worth the risk to have the public exposure and if it does not make it – we believe it will make it through their committees and hopefully the floor sessions – but if by some chance it doesn’t, then it is starting to raise awareness,” Trujillo says. She also says she believes this bill would make New Mexico one of the first states to lower the voting age to 16.
It’s not the only bill addressing voter’s rights, either. Earlier this session, the governor and New Mexico’s secretary of state announced Senate Bill 8 – their push to expand voter’s rights which includes expanding online voter registration and creating a permanent voluntary absentee ballot request list.