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Our View: Let teens push for reform

Published: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Certain 17-year-olds who have just been granted the right to vote in primary elections might be under the impression that legislators and the governor have done them a great service.

Let us set you straight.

They want you to think so, even as they refuse to touch real election reform with a 10-foot pole.

The law in question takes effect Jan. 1. It will allow 17-year-olds who will turn 18 on or before the next general election to vote in the party primary elections that lead up to the general election.

So, in 2014, if 17-year-olds will be 18 on or before Nov. 4, they can vote in the March 18 primary.

Now, that might sound appealing to young ears.

But a closer look uncovers the flawed election process that older voters struggle with, and that state leaders plan to foist upon their newest voting bloc.

1) Illinois has a closed primary. Voters must disclose their political party, and their voting record becomes part of the public record. Many people don’t like that; they stay away from primaries in droves.

2) The partisan way that House and Senate districts were redrawn for the last election greatly minimized competition. On Nov. 6, 30 of 59 Senate elections had only one candidate; 69 of 118 House elections had only one candidate. Such redistricting is good for the entrenched politicians but bad for people who want to vote for change.

We don’t see anything wrong with having 17-year-olds vote.

In fact, we encourage them to use their newfound power to elect candidates who will support an open primary and redistricting reform that takes map drawing out of the hands of politicians.

To the entrenched powerbrokers in Springfield: Watch out, the 17-year-olds are coming!

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