JERSEY CITY, N.J. (PIX 11) — Students with the organization ‘Vote @ 16’ rallied outside Jersey City Hall Friday, calling for the voting age to be lowered from 18 to 16 in local school board elections.
The high schoolers say they should have a say in who gets to make decisions that directly impact them.
Azra Bano, 16, is the co-chair of the organization and one of a few dozen students who showed up to the rally. She says the idea to push for legislation to change the voting age came after learning about government and how certain issues impact students daily.
“We’re learning about all of this but we’re not really going to have a voice in it,” Bano said. “So many issues impact us on the daily, but we really need to make our voices be heard.”
Mussab Ali is the group’s advisor who previously served on the school board himself.
“We believe that young people have the most at stake when it comes to what’s happening on the board of education and they can start to work, they can start to drive, and they should have the right to vote,” Ali said.
Students say this is something that has been proven to work in other cities like Takoma Park, Maryland which first allowed 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in city elections back in 2013.
Right now, students have the support of several elected officials like Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea. He plans to sponsor a resolution of the commissioner board to allow the teens to vote in those elections.
“I think it’s a no-brainer,” said O’Dea. “The more we get high school students 16 and 17 involved in the electoral process, especially school boards, it makes a lot of sense. Once it gets through the legislature, I’ll help lobby the city council so we can put it on the ballot.”
School board elections are held every year in November. Organizers say they’re hoping to get legislation passed so that students can vote by next November’s election.