Alaska Association of Student Government

Kaleb Burris debates during the resolution to lower the voting age to 16.

At the fall Alaska Association of Student Governments conference, two resolutions attempted to enhance student voices by accessing state representatives easier and by lowering the minimum voting age in Alaska to 16 years old.

Alex Kazense, a senior at North Pole High School, presented a resolution, which supported the ballot measure to permanently move legislative sessions from Juneau to Anchorage.

“I figured that if we moved it to Anchorage it’s easier for everyone around the whole state to access their legislator while in session,” Kazense said at the conference hosted by Palmer High School.

The ballot measure would not move the state capital and would only move the legislative sessions. The proposed move would not be affected by AS 44.06.050 through 44.06.060.

Though the capital would retain its status, some delegates from the conference saw the move as frivolous. A delegate from Eagle River High argued that the move should not happen since Juneau has the adequate infrastructure to host legislative sessions and the state would have to find replacement buildings. The delegate furthered his argument when listing states that do not have their capital in their largest city. Though most states don’t, 17 states do have capitals in their largest cities.

Alex Kazense claims that moving the legislative sessions to anchorage “saves us around $360,000 dollars per diem.”

Other arguments against the move were that only those in the Municipality of Anchorage and in Southcentral would benefit from this move. Isolated communities throughout Alaska would still have to fly into Anchorage to speak in person with their representatives.

One delegate from Dillingham contrasted this claim.

“I’ve spent my whole life in Alaska and I’ve never been to Juneau. I’ve been to Anchorage many times,” said the Dillingham delegate.

Ultimately, most students saw that legislative sessions should be held in Juneau since moving sessions would ignore the use of phone calls and emails to legislators. The resolution did not pass 22-16.

The executive board held by students presented a resolution which proposed whether to support lowering the voting age in Alaska to 16 years old. The board presented both arguments to the question. The main arguments for both sides from the resolution were that decisions made in legislative bodies at every level affect teenagers and younger children, or 16-year-olds lack the experience and knowledge to make informed political decisions. In the resolution, it cited that the prefrontal cortex for 16 and 17-year-olds are underdeveloped, the part of the brain that “enables us to weigh dilemmas, balance trade-offs and, in short, make reasonable decisions in politics.”

Beyond the scientific arguments, one student from Soldotna High School argued that “not every kid is like us.”

Most students don’t participate in student government. Only a few hundred students participated in the fall AASG conference, which represented thousands of students across the state.

Luke Devine, a senior from Wasilla High, argued that not every 16-year-old will vote.

“I think that the ones who are educated and the ones who care about the issues are going to be the majority of voters,” Devine said.

Kaleb Burris, a senior from Mat-Su Career Tech, tried to amend the resolution to lower the voting age to 17 years old.

“What about 17 and everybody around me was like ‘that’s a good idea.’” Burris said. “I think 17 would be a good compromise.”

Burris believes that gradually gaining responsibilities with the later years in high school is reasonable and caters to the mounting responsibilities with other periods in high school. He believes that getting 16 passed through the legislature is impossible and having all the responsibilities of adulthood dumped on an 18-year-old is too much.

Since the resolution came from the executive board, the general assembly could not reach most of the support for raising or lowering the voting age.

Anthony Jones is a senior at Mat-Su Career and Technical High School and a Frontiersman intern for the 2019-20 school year.

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