Over the past few years, the topic of teenage suffrage has been in the news. The debate is whether teenagers younger than 18 should be given the right to cast a ballot.

Advocates for teenage voting say that the time has come to reconsider the 26th Amendment that made 18 the national age for voting 32 years ago. A common argument in favor of lowering the voting age is that teens, especially working teens, are subject to some of the same taxes as adults such as income tax but have no legal voice in deciding who represents them in government.

According to www.abcnews.com, 16- and 17-year-olds were allowed to vote in Baltimore, Md.'s Sept. 9 mayoral primary because the primary was 14 months before the general election (giving would-be voters the chance to turn 18).

Youth voting rights advocates in Florida, Hawaii, North Dakota, Alaska and New York are also trying to lower the age of voting, according to www.abcnews.com.

But there is opposition as well.

"If they're lucky, they will have had one civics course before 16, and many won't have that," Curtis Gans, executive director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, told www.abcnews.com. "They're not parents, not homeowners, not raising children, and they're not in any responsible jobs."

There is a way for teenagers to get involved with the electoral process without the right to vote, however. Dennis Markatos, of the nonpartisan citizens' lobbying group Common Cause, says a great way to get involved in local government is to "See if there are any openings in the town and city commissions or public boards that advise the town and city councils on policies," said Markatos. He also said that a good place to find out information on politicians and local youth voting organizations is the Youth Vote Coalition Web site, www.youthvote.org.

According to Deb Cox, the Lowndes County Supervisor of Elections, area teens can visit The Valdosta Daily Times Web site, www.valdostadailytimes.com, visit individual candidates' Web sites, or attend political forums around town to learn the agendas of candidates and background information on voting topics.

Cox also said that students can work at polling locations and be paid $90 with permission from their schools. All the students have to do is contact the Board of Elections office to get an application. Also, student can apply for an unpaid internship to learn more about Lowndes County's voting system. "Persons that intern here get first chance at part-time job openings at $7 an hour, when they become available," said Cox.

As of now, 18 is still the legal voting age, but teenagers ready to exercise their right to vote can register six months before their 18th birthdays, Cox said. There are prepaid voter registration forms already addressed at both Lowndes High School and Valdosta High School. "A person simply has to fill them out and drop them in the mail," said Cox.



DeShaun Maria Harris is a member of the V-Town News team, and a senior at Lowndes High School.

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