Assemblymember Robert Carroll (D-Windsor Terrace) welcomed more than 30 high school students from New York City today as they made the trek to Albany to support Carroll’s bill, the Young Voter Act (A.6839).
“This is how democratic reforms happen — through grassroots action by New Yorkers committed to making our democracy fairer and better,” Carroll said. “It gives me pride to see our state’s future generation of leaders rising up to make change.”
The Young Voter Act would lower the state’s voting age from 18 to 17, push for voter registration in high school classes, and lead a broad new civics education campaign in the state’s high schools. Carroll introduced the law in the State Assembly in March after a series of meetings with three teenagers — Max Shatan, Chris Stauffer, and Eli Frankel, all Bard High School students.
Carroll, an attorney with a background in voting rights, views the Young Voter Act as a critical first step in reforming New York’s often archaic voting practices.
“We have one of the most dysfunctional governments in the country. That happened because Albany is fundamentally out of touch with working New Yorkers,” Carroll said. “The state is governed by leaders who have no fear of the ballot box, because the system is designed to protect the powers that be. I ran for the Assembly to level the playing field by making it easier for New Yorkers to vote, run for office, and get involved. This law provides a foundation for the public to take control of our democracy.”
Aside from lowering the voting age by a year, Carroll’s bill would mandate New York high schools distribute two forms to all students turning 17 that calendar year. The first form is a standard voter registration form. The second form is a “Voter Registration Opt-Out.” Each student has the choice of which form to complete. The forms are then collected by school administrators.
“This is my first time visiting Albany. I’m looking forward to seeing how bills become laws and how our state government functions,” said Shatan, 17, a junior.
"This process proves that when high school students are sincere, engaged, and interested in gaining a voice, they really can make a difference," said Frankel, 16, a junior. “When we reached out to Assemblymember Carroll in the winter, we had no idea that we would end up in Albany, working with him, just a few months later.”
“This bill will ensure the voices of teenagers are heard,” said Stauffer, 16, a junior. “When we vote and get involved, we can make New York fairer for everyone.”
The Young Voter Act is being carried in the Senate by Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) who said, "New York’s abysmal 55 percent voter turnout is both an embarrassment and a threat to our political institutions. Without an active and engaged citizenry, New York is destined to become a government of special interests, by special interests, and for special interests. That’s why we need the Young Voter Act. By lowering the voting age to 17 and requiring voter education coursework in high schools, New York can lead the way in fostering a new generation of civic-minded and politically informed voters."