Mahsiah Imes, a 15-year-old high school student, received recognition for his work encouraging his peers to have a voice in the political process at age 16, but the Jersey City Council still voted 7-2 against referring the measure to lower the voting age to State legislature.
Currently, Jersey City voting on all municipal, county, state and federal elections is restricted to Jersey City residents 18 years and older.
Imes, president of the Hudson County branch of the National Youth Rights Association, strongly believes that one way to increase voter participation is to decrease the age limit creating political interest earlier and instilling the importance and responsibilities of citizenship.
He also believes that at a rightful age of 16, most teenagers already have jobs and pay taxes. The elected mayor does financially affect them so they should have a right to get involved with local elections.
City council did vote 9-0 on recognizing Imes for his research on extending voting rights to those under 18 as well as the NYRA’s efforts at Hyattsville, MD and Takoma Park MD, two towns that has amended their voting age to 16.
Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro called Imes a “relentless advocate.”
“Keep up what you are doing here, it’s commendable. It’s good work. You got nine members of [the] city council buzzing and talking about the question on whether or not to reduce the voting age.”
Lavarro also admitted that he was torn.
“Young people should be young, and children, and we don’t want them to be growing up too fast. At the same when I have a model person like you standing before me who says “’ want that responsibility, give me the ball coach, I’ll run with it,’ and it makes me think about going and supporting and lowering the voting age.”
Ward E Councilwoman Candice Osborne believes “that children at 16 and 17 are pretty smart and thoughtful.”
Supporting the resolution on lowering voting age, Osborne said, “I think it deserves a hearing. I don’t know if I agree, but I think at least it needs to be discussed.”
As for Councilwoman-at-Large Joyce Watterman, she believes that “timing is important and I don’t think it’s the right time for this.”
“There’s a lot of variables that has to come into place in order for this to happen. And one of that is with our school system. And I believe this, that if we can get certain subjects in our school curriculum I think the children can, at the age of 16 and 17, vote.
“I am voting no now, but maybe my granddaughter will be around to vote yes,” said Watterman.
As for Imes, even though the council members may not agree now he told council that he will “keep on trying and I’m going to keep pushing for it.”
“My eye is on the mayor’s office and I look forward to learning more from you guys.”