February 17, 2016

Gov to decide if 17 year olds should vote in primaries

Photo via Flickr by Erik (HASH) Hersman

The Senate approved a bill that would allow some 17 year olds to participate in primary elections, sending it to the governor’s desk.

Photo via Flickr by Erik (HASH) Hersman

Photo via Flickr by Erik (HASH) Hersman

The proposal passed 24-16.

It would only apply to those who turn 18 between the primary elections and the general elections. New Mexico’s primary elections are currently in June, so it would only apply to those who turn 18 in that five month period between June and November.

Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, co-sponsored the legislation and said it would help create more involvement in politics by young voters.

Still, it received vigorous opposition—from those in both parties.

“There is a reason why we don’t let 17 and a half year olds vote,” Sen. Lisa Torraco, R-Albuquerque, said. “That’s because their brains haven’t fully matured.”

Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales, went back to when the United States lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.

“There was a reason why they landed on 18 for the general election,” Sapien said.

Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, supported the legislation and recounted his experience from when the voting age was lowered in 1971.

“That meant an awful lot to me,” Rue said, of being able to vote in the 1972 election. He added that he believed it will mean “an awful lot” to others.

Moores said it would not be widespread.

“We’re talking about a five-month window here,” Moores explained. He said repeatedly that it would not apply to those who are 17 at the time of general elections.

The  House sponsor, Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, carried this legislation a number of times in the past. This is the first time it will go to the governor’s desk.

The bill will not apply to this year’s primary elections even if Gov. Susana Martinez signs it into law. Since it did not receive a two-thirds vote from both chambers, the emergency clause is not valid and it won’t go into effect until July 1.

The first time it would go into effect is for the 2018 primary.