Effort to lower BOE voting age from 18 to 16 kicks off with rally at Jersey City City Hall


An effort to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 in board of education races kicked off with a rally with dozens in attendance at Jersey City City Hall last night.

By John Heinis and Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

The rally began with chants of “Lower the age! Ignite the change!,” “Tomorrow’s leaders are voting today!,” and “Teens unite! Let’s get this right!”

“When I get asked the question why should the voting age be lowered from 18 to 16 in school board elections, I think back to a time where the school board threatened to cancel sports in the Jersey City Public Schools,” began Vote @16 Co-Chair Zachary Zabut.

“And at times like these students are enraged, they call for action from a school board where they don’t even have a say in electing. So it’s time, it’s time to give teenagers a voice in electing the people that make the decisions that affect their education and it’s time that teens unite because we have the most informed opinions on what the schools actually need.”

Vote @16 Co-Chair Azra Bano explained why she believes voting rights should be extended to 16 year olds in BOE races.

“Voting is a fundamental right … We have unique insights into the daily values of our educational experience, allowing us to provide a valuable perspective on issues that matter. to us most,” she stated.

“For example, Fordham just recently banned AP Psychology, AP History, and gender sexuality. This truly was unacceptable: we need to be able to choose what we learn and no one is allowed to restrict our knowledge and education.”

Zack Barkouch, a 16-year-old student at McNair Academic High School said that he has experienced two floods at the facility each year thus far, which negatively impacts students ability to learn.

“Even alumni know that these problems have been plaguing our schools for a very long time and a change needs to happen and us having a voice, us finally being heard, and myself being 16 years old, I can finally elect those who will get things done.”

Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea (D-2), praised protege Mussab Ali, a former Jersey City Board of Education president, and the Vote @16 team for spearheading this effort.

Elected to the city council at 26 years old in 1985, O’Dea committed to sponsoring a resolution at the county level to help.

“This is a heck of a great initiative. I look to the future of Jersey City up here, and our future is very, very bright and we’ve gotta work hard to get this initiative passed,” he stated.

He said he expected a good turnout at the September meeting where the measure is introduced, which will support a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33).

O’Dea also noted that the council voted down a measure supporting lowering the voting age to 16 back in 2016.

He also committed to helping pass a ballot initiative, which will ultimately be necessary to allow 16 years to vote in school board races.

“I’m honored by the fact that we’re all here together making history here in Jersey City … I just want to talk very briefly on why the time is now. We are on a planet that is on fire. Gun violence is something that has not been addressed for decades. Racism is dividing our communities, and yet the people in power turn a blind eye,” Ali stated.

“Our generation does not have time to wait. It is so important for young people to be at the table because for far too long, their voices have not been heard. Earlier today, you heard about young people and you heard about sports trying to be cut in the middle school budget. I can guarantee you, if young people were voting, there’s no way elected officials would’ve thought the right idea to balance a budget would be the cutting of sports.”

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