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17 and voting?

PRINCETON – A new state law now allows 17 year olds to vote in primary elections if they turn 18 by the general election day.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation last week as part of his agenda to increase participation in democracy and ensure every voice is heard in Illinois, according to a press release issued by Quinn’s office.

“Our democracy is strongest when more voters raise their voices at the ballot box,” Quinn stated.

Kate Morrow, a recent Princeton High School graduate, said the new law does not make sense.

“I understand that it allows the voter to have a choice in who they will be voting for when they’re actually 18, but I also know very few 17 year olds who have the time, interest and patience to put into researching a large panel of candidates for a primary,” she said.

Morrow said this new law might be one that does nothing because 17 year olds won’t vote anyway.

“But it opens a door for both uninformed and immature voters, which tips the balance of this country’s democratic system,” she said. “I definitely believe that young people should have a say, but ultimately, the voting age is 18, and this just adds a feeling of ‘conditionality’ to the law, which may have wider repercussions.”

Although Bureau County Clerk Kami Hieronymus understands Quinn’s concept of letting 17 year olds have a better say in their voting, she strongly believes it won’t make much of a difference in voter turnout.

Hieronymus confirmed voter turnout in Bureau County is very low, due in part by voters not wanting to choose between parties.

“We just don’t have a good turnout in the primary elections,” she said.

As for voters registration in Bureau County, it will cause one more step in the program currently used in Hieronymus’ office.

Hieronymus said the current program will have to be changed, and one extra step will have to be added to calculate the ages of young registers. The system will somehow have to override registered voters who are 17 and will have to calculate to confirm they will turn 18 by the general election.

“It’s going to be another step for us to track and make sure that they are qualified to vote,” she said.

Quinn signed the bill at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire. The bill was proposed and pushed by a civics teacher and several students from the school.

According to FairVote, 20 other states permit 17 year olds to vote in the primary election.

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