AURORA – Thousands of 17-year-olds are eligible to vote in Colorado’s upcoming presidential primary for the first time under a new state law.
The law allows 17-year-olds to cast ballots in spring primaries if they turn 18 before November’s general election. At least seven states and Washington, D.C., have similar laws.
According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, about 24,000 teens are eligible to vote in the March 3 primary under the change, a small number in a state with 3.4 million voters, the Sentinel Colorado reported.
“Chances are that turnout won’t be very high among this group, since it tends to be low among young people in general, and probably a lot of them aren’t aware they can vote now,” said Seth Masket, a political science professor at the University of Denver.
However, the new voters could help Bernie Sanders’ candidacy and that could make a difference in a tight race, Denver pollster and commentator Floyd Ciruli said. The Vermont senator has benefited from support among Generation Z and millennial voters.
Three Overland High School students who were interviewed about the new law said they did not know about their ability to vote until a few weeks ago and figure most of their peers were not aware, either.
Kyle Siple was the only one among the three who had registered to vote so far but all said they planned to cast ballots. Voters can register to vote and vote in person at polling locations posted online by the secretary of state’s office.
Siple said many Hispanic students at the school, considered one of the most culturally diverse in the nation, have lost faith in the electoral process because of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric.
“Some of them just think it is hopeless, they won’t vote,” said Siple, who is white.