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Lowering the voting age in Missouri will strengthen civic education, students say

Voting election illustration
Nat Thomas
St. Louis Public Radio
Some students in Missouri want to lower the voting age to 16 for certain elections.

Most high school students in Missouri take civics courses a few years before they can fully participate in elections. The student-led campaign Vote16 MO aims to change that by lowering the age of voting to 16 for local and school board elections.

“We have a big stake in what there is to say, but I just don't think we necessarily have that voice yet,” said Lexi Kreisler, a high school student in St. Louis. “I really believe in, ‘No taxation without representation.’”

Civics teacher Jeff Chazen said he welcomes the opportunity for his students to be involved in the political process earlier in their life.

Jeff Chazen is a civics teacher with two decades experience in the Parkway School District.
Jeff Chazen is a civics teacher with two decades' experience in the Parkway School District.

“If this initiative were to pass, having students be able to vote right away, as opposed to me having to say, ‘Hey, in a year or two, this is something that you can look forward to doing’ … would make what I'm doing more relevant to their everyday lives and make what we're learning more meaningful,” Chazen said.

DJ Yearwood, a high school student in Kansas City, Missouri, is Vote16MO’s campaign director. He said civics classes in Missouri discourage future voters by teaching them about government, then asking them to hold onto that information — sometimes up to three years — before being able to vote.

"Lowering the voting age in such a small but impactful manner would completely reshape the way that Missouri does civics education," he said.

The 18-to-24-year-old voting bloc has historically had a low turnout in elections. Allowing young students to vote in local elections may increase the likelihood they vote again, Chazen said.

“I like the element that we're just going to do this with the local level, because that's where our students are most tapped in,” he said. “I think it's a great introduction to the process.”

Why young students want the right to vote

Learn more about why Lexi Kreisler and DJ Yearwood want to lower the voting age and why civics teacher Jeff Chazen supports their efforts by listening to the full St. Louis on the Air conversation on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or by clicking the play button below.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Ulaa Kuziez is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org

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Ulaa Kuziez is a junior studying Journalism and Media at Saint Louis University. She enjoys storytelling and has worked with various student publications. In her free time, you can find her at local parks and libraries with her nephews.