Feb. 17, 2003 Voice of the Times on giving 16-year-olds the vote

Posted: Monday, February 24, 2003

We are more than passingly amused by some Anchorage Assembly members' ludicrous posturing about whether the voting age in our town should be lowered to 16.

A lot of pompous hooey was involved in -- get this -- rejecting by a single vote a spot on April's ballot for a proposed charter amendment that would have enacted this preposterous idea. Only the common sense of Assembly Chairman Dick Traini and members Anna Fairclough, Dan Sullivan and Dan Kendall headed it off. But, alas, at the same time, six members of the Assembly voted to order the matter placed on the ballot for an ''advisory'' vote.

Good grief. Have these people nothing better to do? State law says you have to be 18 to vote. Setting up a voting system unique only to Anchorage would be an expensive and silly experiment. Some of the public testimony on the issue was equally nitty.

Said Walter Featherly, a lawyer and former member of the Anchorage School Board: ''Our national creed is that all persons are created equal. Nothing more than this should be needed to make the case that 16- and 17-year-olds should be given the right to vote.''

Oh, really? Well, if we are all so equal, why not let 16-year-olds buy beer and cigarettes? Being equal, they must be mature enough to handle such matters that pertain to their good health.

But on the other hand, why stop at 16? Should 15-year-olds be denied this equal opportunity to vote? Probably not, in this view. Come to think of it, perhaps the voting age should be lowered to 13.

Once a child becomes a teenager, isn't he or she mature enough to handle such responsibilities? They certainly think so. Most 13-year-olds already know they're smarter than Mom or Dad.

Obviously, some of them would like you to think that at 16 they're ready to make decisions at the polls involving such things as property taxes, school bonds, planning and zoning and photo-radar.

Well, good for a handful of these young people who want to get involved. Maybe these few do stand a cut above the rest in a city full of immature teenagers. But they are hardly representative of their age group.

Let them grow up, get jobs, maybe join the Army. Let them learn firsthand what it means to pay taxes, meet a payroll, apply for a building permit or a business license, or try to win approval to erect a tall sign over their own pizza parlor.

Sadly, too many of our Assembly members -- the measures' sponsors, Allan Tesche, Dick Tremaine and Janice Shamberg, come to mind -- are displaying the same lack of maturity evident in most 16-year-olds. It's time for them to grow up, too -- and start acting like they have some good sense.

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