Senior boys present bill proposition to California senator

From the classroom to the Capitol – two GBHS students use their voices to advocate for voting-age alterations


Special to the Gazette/ REBECCA FONTAINE

Seniors Jordan Greenfelder, left, and Zack Haug pose with Sen. Brian Dahle to whom they proposed the idea to allow 17-year-olds to be able to vote in the California primary election if they would be 18 by the time of the general election in November.

Recently, two GBHS senior boys presented a bill to a California state senator. 

In December, GBHS senior Zack Haug had the idea to promote 17-year-olds voting in the California primary election if they would be 18 by the general election. 

“I got the idea because I planned to vote in the primary,” Haug said. “I incorrectly believed that anyone who could vote in a general election could vote in a primary for that election. I called the Placer County elections office and was told that even though I can vote in the general election, I’m unable to vote in the Democratic primary in California.” 

This is because Haug is currently only 17. However, Haug said he believes he should’ve had the right to vote.

Haug brought his concerns and his idea to fellow senior Jordan Greenfelder. 

Although Haug is a Democrat and Greenfelder is a Republican, they both were in favor of this bill, since it has more to do with youth voting than the advancement of a certain political party. 

“It’s bipartisan,” Greenfelder said. “It’s (already) been passed in 19 other states. So it’s not like only Republican states or only Democratic states have passed it.”

They both believe in giving young people representation and a voice in government, to match current levels of political involvement.

“We think (not allowing those who’ll be 18 by the general election to vote in the primaries) is almost taking away the voice of the younger generation,” Greenfelder said. “In the past four years, we’ve seen a big movement in our generation becoming more and more politically active. In the end, we’re still going to be voting, so why not give us the opportunity to vote for who we want to vote for?”

However, AP Government teacher Jarrod Westberg said there is still a political aspect to the bill that must be examined. 

In the past four years, we’ve seen a big movement in our generation becoming more and more politically active. In the end, we’re still going to be voting, so why not give us the opportunity to vote for who we want to vote for?

— Jordan Greenfelder

“I know both parties would want to look at who benefits from (this bill),” Westberg said. “The Democrats have a super-majority in both parts of (California) government, so I would see them saying if it helps Republicans, (they’d say) no. If it helps Democrats, they would say yes.”

Although the idea is democratic, Westberg is unsure if it would actually help the Democratic party, since voting in a primary election doesn’t change who wins the general election, only who the candidates will be for each party. 

“In the future, (passing the bill) would just get more voter turnout,” Westberg said. “That’s all that it would do. It doesn’t necessarily mean it would make one (party) or the other win.”

Greenfelder said he believes that if anything, California Democratic legislators should be in favor of passing the bill, given their liberal majority. 

“We’re a progressive state,” Greenfelder said. “We believe in moving forward (and) moving toward what’s right.”

Haug and Greenfelder were willing to take the steps to make their voices and  idea heard. 

“With the help of Jordan, I called and emailed the offices of four state senators,” Haug said. “(I) was denied a meeting by them all, until I decided to call the office of state senator Brian Dahle, whose assistant stayed in contact with me to discuss my idea and eventually allowed us to schedule a meeting at the Capitol building.”

The two prepared for a meeting with Sen. Dahle, which was scheduled in February. 

“We prepared pages of documents and legal references from other states’ constitutions and put together a requested revision of California’s elections laws,” Haug said.

By the end of their meeting, state senator Dahle seemed to be in agreement with their idea. 

“At the beginning, (Dahle) thought we were just trying to lower the voting age,” Greenfelder said. “But when we elaborated on it more and gave our reasoning, it sounded like (he) and his secretary agreed with the premise.”

However, Sen. Dahle’s legislation period had ended, meaning that he couldn’t propose their bill this year. However, they take his support as a positive sign and will continue to pursue the passing of this bill. 

“We’re currently working on reaching out to other state senators to try to implement a change as quickly as possible,” Haug said. “But we may not be able to have our bill voted on until next year.”

Although the bill won’t be directly able to affect Haug and Greenfelder, they’re willing to continue their efforts to help future students. 

“We know we’re not going to get (this bill passed) for us, but we want to get it for the next generation,” Greenfelder said. “The vote that we’re making doesn’t necessarily impact the country, but it could. It has the possibility to.”

Westberg agreed that the bill makes sense and is perfectly feasible and legal.

“I think (the bill) makes sense,” Westberg said. “I think an 18-year-old (before they turn 18)  should be able to be a part of that first (presidential nomination) process.”