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LA students have voice, now seek vote

Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Voting at a young age also increases the likelihood that candidates and political parties will pay attention to these groups in the future, Diaz said. Campaigns have limited funds, and they spend money on reaching the people most likely to vote -- one major indication is whether someone has voted before. If a student votes in high school, she gets added to voting rolls and campaign lists and becomes "lucrative" to political parties, candidates and issue campaigns, Diaz said.

Although the board unanimously approved the resolution, board member Richard Vladovic expressed concern that teachers might wield undue influence over students.

"Many times students tend to listen to their teachers ... and sometimes we have a greater influence than we thought we had," Vladovic said.

Okeke, though, said in an interview that he thinks young people are more skeptical than adult voters and see the problems in schools every day. "We're not going to be easily charmed" by special interests, he said.

As written, the resolution would examine lowering the voting age only for school board elections. Tyler said he hopes that instead of just expanding access to school board elections, officials seriously consider lowering the voting age for all municipal elections. That could allow students to vote for measures that affect school funding, like a parcel tax the district is currently pushing.

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Makailah Jenkins, 17, told the school board Tuesday that she already speaks often at board meetings, marches and organizes her peers. "Voting would be the next logical step."

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