A freshman legislator introduced a bill Wednesday that would give 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote in school board elections, but it likely faces an uphill fight. Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, said in an interview that he wants to expand the pool of voters to improve historically low turnouts in school elections. Just as important, he said, the bill would allow more high school students to have a voice in the body of government that affects them most. Martinez, a 33-year-old lawyer, said he didn’t have a sense of whether his bill would have a chance in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. But, Martinez said, House Speaker Don Tripp, R-Socorro, has stressed bipartisanship, and this bill should appeal to most everyone.
Allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in school elections would cost nothing, and it would shine attention on races that are important but largely ignored, Martinez said.
His bill, though, is similar to a measure that most House Republicans voted against two years ago. Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, sponsored a bill to allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if they would turn 18 before the general election. Steinborn’s bill passed the House of Representatives 44-24 when Democrats were in control, but all the “no” votes came from Republicans.