Imagine yourself at 18 years old. What were you doing? Were you in college, working somewhere or maybe a senior in high school? I am sure most of you were doing one of these things, if not a couple. It’s amazing how much growing up we do between the ages of 16 and 18 and 18 and 21. At 16, you can drive, at 18, you can vote and at 21, you can drink. However, a new bill in the legislature proposes to allow 18-year-olds to have one extra privilege: Holding public office.
A constitutional amendment proposed on Jan. 15, 2015 by Nebraska State Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill, Nebraska, would allow 18-year-olds who have lived within their district for at least one year to run for governor, lieutenant governor or become a member of the state legislature. Defending his own bill, Sen. Larson said, “Those who argue that 18 is not mature enough to hold office don’t trust or respect the voters.” He said we should let the voters decide whether an 18-year-old is the best candidate for the job of public office.
Well, senator, I want to tell you that 18-year-olds are not the best candidates to be our next governor or lieutenant governor. An 18-year-old state senator is a little far-fetched, but I would take that over the chief executive of our state being fresh out of high school.
Though there have been young people before who have been elected to our legislative body, 18-year-olds simply are not ready to take on the responsibility of being a representative for a legislative district, presiding over the legislature as lieutenant governor or being the governor of our state. Nebraska has elected young politicians before, but not as young as an 18-year-old.
Sen. Larson became the youngest legislator in Nebraska history at 24, not 18. He entered the legislature in 2010, two years after he graduated from Georgetown University. Not only did Sen. Larson graduate from a prestigious university, but he had also cleared the voting age by six years by the time he was elected. Some would feel even a 24-year-old would have difficulty adjusting to four years of state governance.
Running and holding office would help engage citizens and young people especially. Moreover, I agree with those who feel millennials should be more civically engaged, but lowering the age to become a state legislator or governor to 18 is not the proper course of action.
There are better ways of approaching youth involvement in politics, but simply allowing 18-year-olds to run for governor is absurd. In fact, I remember myself at 18-years-old because I am not much older than that now. I would’ve loved to run for governor, but I would’ve failed miserably—even if I were somehow elected, and I like to think I was a politically informed 18-year-old.
Truth of the matter is: Most 18-year-olds just don’t care. In fact, 18-24-year-olds are the lowest on the scale of registered voters in the U.S. Only 38 percent of registered voters were between the ages of 18-24, which is steadily sloping downward. I applaud Sen. Larson’s passion for allowing young people the chance to run at such a young age, but I believe that even if he simply wants younger people to get involved in politics, this bill is not the answer.
Even if the law were to pass, I think you’d be hard pressed to find an 18-year-old who would run for political office , let alone one who is registered to vote. To be governor or lieutenant governor, an 18-year-old is obviously unqualified. Even at the level of the legislature, an 18-year-old would be out of his or her element. From drafting bills to asking important questions about proposed bills, an 18-year-old prodigy would be unable to acclimate his or her self to an environment of a state’s law and public policy. Sen. Larson feels 18-year-olds are mature enough to become a state legislator or even governor, and as much as I appreciate a state senator earmarking some legislation for us, even the most mature 18-year-old would not have the ability to function on the floor with lawyers, established insurance representatives and doctors or to govern a state of 1.8 million people.
Admittedly, not all representatives are doctors of lawyers, but they still have one thing in common: They are not 18 years old.