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U.S. lawmakers move to include more young voters

The Associated Press

In this March 31 photo, Heidi Sainz, 17, a senior at Inderkum High School in Sacramento, Calif., says she favors a bill by Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, that would lower the voting age to 17.

The Associated Press SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Donald Trump’s characterization of Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists during his presidential campaign angered Heidi Sainz, whose family is from Mexico and who has close friends who are immigrants. She was also upset that she couldn’t do anything about it at the ballot box because she was a year shy of being able to vote.

Sainz favors a bill in the California Legislature that would lower the voting age to 17, which she thinks would give a voice to more people affected by the outcome of elections.

Lawmakers in more than a dozen states are trying to increase voter participation by targeting young people. Their bills are among nearly 500 pieces of legislation introduced around the country this year to make voting easier, according to a March analysis by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.

While Republican-leaning states have moved to tighten voting rules — nearly 90 such bills have been introduced — those efforts have been outstripped by the number of bills seeking to expand access to the polls.

“A lot of young people last year wanted to make their voices heard but were unable to do so because the rules prohibited them,” said Jonathan Brater, counsel with the nonpartisan Brennan Center Democracy Program.

“That has certainly renewed interest in making the system more accessible,” Brater said.

Democrats and Republicans have supported efforts to expand access, particularly online registration. But it’s mostly Republicans who are pushing restrictions such as requiring photo identification at the polls.

Roughly 20 states are considering voter ID laws this year that supporters say prevent fraud and boost public confidence in elections. Critics say such laws target minorities and the poor, who might not have driver’s licenses and find it difficult to obtain them.

Recent voting expansion efforts include automatic registration and extending absentee voting opportunities.

Republicans control the governorship and legislature in 25 states and so far have been relatively successful in pushing through the more restrictive laws. Democrats control just a half-dozen states.

In California, where Democrats command a supermajority in the Legislature and control the governor’s mansion, lawmakers say they want to take the lead in expanding voting access as other states move to restrict it.

The bill to lower the voting age to 17 proposes an amendment to the state Constitution. Passage would require a two-thirds vote in the Legislature and approval by voters.

Assemblyman Evan Low, the bill’s author, believes now is a good time to lower the voting age. Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and the ouster of South Korea’s president have shown people the importance of voting and holding public servants accountable, Low said.Speech

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