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A Salt Lake City Democrat is pushing legislation aimed at getting younger people more involved in the political process. HB70, sponsored by Rep. Joel Briscoe, would allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the November general election to vote in primary elections.
The bill was held in committee Friday after Rep. Fred Cox, R-West Valley City, and Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, expressed concerns about details such as signature-gathering thresholds and whether the state could allow a 17-year-old to vote in a presidential primary. However both Cox and Perry endorsed the concept.
Briscoe said he'll speak to the heads of the political parties and also seek legal advice before returning to the committee with an amended bill.
The Legislature last year passed a measure to allow 16- and 17-year-olds the ability to pre-register to vote. Briscoe said more than 1,300 of the youth who pre-registered will be 18 by the Nov. 8 election.
Briscoe drew on his experience as a high-school civics teacher for 25 years and said he assigned his students to attend their party caucus and, in some cases, they were elected delegates.
"Young people are passionate and energetic," he said. He added research shows young people who are active in politics tend to start a lifetime pattern of voting, and could even encourage others in their household to vote.