DENVER – Should high school students be allowed to vote in school board elections? Some Colorado legislators think so and have proposed a bill that would allow it.
The bill – HB19-1243 – would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local school board elections and those for the state school board.
“I thought that this would be the best civics lesson ever,” said Rico Givens-Padilla, a student at North High School who supports the bill.
Givens-Padilla is also the campaign manager for Denver Board of Education Candidate Anna DeWitt. Right now, he can’t vote for the candidate whose campaign he runs, but hopes the bill will change that.
“We’re the ones who are actually affected by these policies,” Givens-Padilla said. “We’re the ones who need to voice stances on them.”
One of DeWitt’s opponents, Tay Anderson, agrees.
“For far too long, what we’ve seen is adults make decisions without consulting our students,” Anderson told FOX31. “And if our students were a voting block, we would have to go to them and say we need that student voice component.”
Anderson has thought that for a long time.
In 2017, when he was 18 and a student at Manual High School, Anderson ran for school board, but lost.
“I think we probably would’ve won in 2017 if we had young people able to vote,” Anderson said. “That was our biggest support base – going to schools, talking to young people, listening to their stories and understanding the complexity with the issues with our students.”
In that board election, just 32 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot. Supporters of the bill feel if it passes, it could boost that number.
Another Denver Board of Education candidate, Meryl Duguay, also supports the bill.
A “big part of our job is to prepare students to become contributing members of our democracy,” Duguay wrote in an e-mail to FOX31. “They asked for this – this came from their activism. I am proud of them. I hope they are afforded the pleasure of participating.”
FOX31 reached out to the other Denver School Board candidate – Julie Banuelos – but did not hear back from her.
FOX31 also reached out to a number of metro-area school districts, along with the Colorado State Board of Education, and none currently have a stance on the bill.
The bill is set for a hearing at the Capitol on April 2.
Rep. James Coleman and Sen. Dominck Moreno are sponsoring the bill. Moreno is also an Adams County School District 14 school board member.