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Colorado Still Ageist in Politics

Colorado Amendment V Rejected

21-year-old+Jewell+Jones+has+become+the+youngest+ever+lawmaker+in+the+state+of+Michigan+Photo+Credit%3A+The+Michigan+Journal
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Colorado Still Ageist in Politics

21-year-old Jewell Jones has become the youngest ever lawmaker in the state of Michigan Photo Credit: The Michigan Journal

21-year-old Jewell Jones has become the youngest ever lawmaker in the state of Michigan Photo Credit: The Michigan Journal

21-year-old Jewell Jones has become the youngest ever lawmaker in the state of Michigan Photo Credit: The Michigan Journal

21-year-old Jewell Jones has become the youngest ever lawmaker in the state of Michigan Photo Credit: The Michigan Journal

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Knowledgeable and active citizens – be they young or old – are the greatest assets to a democracy. Conventional wisdom dictates that older people are wiser and therefore, should be the leaders of our society. However, this should not prevent the young from leading alongside the old. Current Colorado law requires legislators to be at least 25 years of age, compared to 43 states in the nation that “have a minimum age requirement between 18 and 21 for state representatives,” as stated by 303 Magazine. Thus, Colorado is part of the minority that requires candidates to be older than 21. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCLS), the average age of Colorado legislators in 2015 was 55 years in contrast with the average age of Colorado’s population: 45 years. Though this age gap only spans a decade, the younger generation is obviously underrepresented. Amendment V, which would lower the age requirement for serving in the state legislature from 25 to 21, is a step in the right direction in closing this gap. Unfortunately, Colorado voters made the wrong decision in the 2018 midterm election.

To cite the Colorado Judicial Branch website, Colorado law sets the age of majority at 18 – meaning that Coloradans are considered adults upon reaching this age, though some restrictions, such as prohibition of alcohol consumption, still persist. However, at age 21, no more restrictions apply. Since 21-year-olds are legally adults in every aspect (drinking, consent, etc.), why shouldn’t they be able to run for office? Those who opposed Amendment V argued that young candidates would be less effective in office because older candidates would be more mature and have more life experience. Of course maturity and experience are important, but this reasoning is incomplete and out of context. Though a young person would have less experience, not every legislator would be 21 years old, and he or she would work with other more experienced legislators, so it wouldn’t have been a lone young person making decisions. Additionally, it is up to the voters to decide who gets elected. Allowing younger candidates to run for office does not guarantee their election, and restricting those who are more qualified and more mature than their peers is not fair. Besides, age is not a perfect measurement of maturity. Young people can be just as mature and qualified as older people and are capable of accomplishing great things. Take the Parkland students, for example. They were just high-schoolers, and yet, they managed to start a social movement and arguably draw more attention to the issue of gun control than many of their adult counterparts have done in the past.

Opponents of Amendment V argued that older legislators were exactly what we needed to lead us towards a brighter future: because of their experience, they would be able to manage rapidly developing issues, such as new technology, better than the younger generation. Again, they were wrong. In fact, older legislators might not have what it takes to lead our future. Young people tend to be more in-touch with issues that affect the younger generation. As things like the internet and computers become more integrated into our lives, young people – who grew up with this technology – will have an advantage. For instance, in the Senate’s questioning of Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook, about said social media site, things did not go as planned. The purpose of the hearing was to address Facebook’s irresponsible behavior that fostered the spread of misinformation and aided Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Intentions were to ultimately reprimand Zuckerberg and devise regulations to prevent further wrongdoing. Instead, despite being prepared and educated by their staff members about social media in general and Facebook in particular, the senators’ questions displayed a clear lack of knowledge in this area and clear indications that they did not know where to even begin to regulate Facebook. As a result of their inability to get with and stay with the times, Facebook’s stock actually went up tremendously during and after the hearing, according to The New York Times. These senators, who were mostly in their 60s and 70s, were certainly experienced legislators. However, they were not able to manage a critical social issue due in part to the age gap that contributed to their inability to truly understand the most common communication media of the current world.

Young candidates could have increased the representation of young people and encouraged them to participate in civic duties. Young people tend to feel disenfranchised because their voices are not heard, and their opinions are not understood by representatives who are decades older than themselves. In years past, even though millennials comprise “an increasingly large share of eligible voters, they vote at much lower rates than other generations,” as reported by NPR. Allowing greater opportunities for the representation of the younger generation could have invigorated younger citizens to become more active members of our democratic society.

Opening the doors to legislators as young as 21 was an opportunity to diversify opinions and expertise: strengthening rather than weakening the legislative body. Barring young-but-equally-qualified people from the Colorado legislature will only continue the trend of incidents like the infamous Facebook failure and maintain low young-voter turnouts. There was a simple solution: Amendment V. Alas, Coloradans did not have the vision, did not have the courage to take this small step on the path to a greater future.

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