17-Year-Olds In Iowa May Soon Be Able To Participate In Primary Elections
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is coming out in support for an Iowa Senate bill that would allow 17-year-old's to participate in primary elections, if they will be 18 by the date of that year’s general election. Pate, Iowa’s Commissioner of Elections, proposed an amendment to Senate File 2142 that altered the present age of voter registration from 17 and a half to 17. That amendment was adopted.
“If they’re going to be old enough to vote in the general election, it makes sense that they should also be allowed to choose their party’s nominee.” - Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate
Senate File 2142 passed the Iowa Senate unanimously, 49-0, on Tuesday. Secretary Pate encourages the Iowa House to also support the legislation.
“My office made a strong push over the last several months to engage young people in the political process,” Secretary Pate said. “Our Caucus 101 curriculum, Iowa Youth Caucus and Iowa Youth Straw Poll saw tremendous participation across the state by our young people. More than 60,000 students voted in the Iowa Youth Straw Poll. They took that vote very seriously and were obviously interested in the process. I hope that by allowing 17-year-olds to help choose their party’s nominees, this early civic engagement spurs them to remain involved throughout their lives.”
This legislation, along with Iowa’s new electronic voter registration system, further bolsters Iowa’s status as a leader in citizen participation in the electoral process. Since launching electronic voter registration on January 1, more than 8,200 Iowans have used the system to register to vote or update their registration information. More than 2,100 of those were 18-24-year-olds. That is the second highest demographic group using the online system, trailing only 25-34-year-olds.
The proposed legislation applies to city primaries as well as regular primary elections. It would go into effect on January 1, 2017.
Secretary Pate requests that both chambers of the Iowa Legislature add funding to the bill. Lowering the voting registration age to 17 for primary elections will require recalibration of elections systems for all 99 county auditors. The estimated cost could be as much as $193,000.