Is the debate about Amendment V a debate about millennials themselves?

Coloradans are set to vote on Amendment V, which proposes that Colorado reduce the minimum age for running for the state Senate and House from 25 to 21.

Many supporters characterize the amendment as a way to pull more voices into the lawmaking process. However, as supporters and opponents made their arguments, the debate often centered around the lifestyles and habits of the millennial generation, or people who are currently 21 to 34 years old.

“It allows more young voices in our political process and allows people who are tax-paying citizens, and who could have already completed college, their first military service, or any other career work, to be influential in how laws are determined here in Colorado,” said Emma Donahue, chair of Colorado Young Democrats.

Amendment V began as a push from the Colorado Young Democrats to give younger adults more representation in the Colorado General Assembly.

Colorado’s Federation of Young Republicans joined soon after. The two groups worked with a team of sponsors, including Democratic Sen. Michael Merrifield, Republican Sen. Vicki Marble, Republican Rep. Kevin Van Winkle and Democratic Rep. Jovan Melton.

In a bipartisan effort, they succeeded in getting the bill, “Reduce Age Qualification for General Assembly,” introduced in the legislature in early April.

In order to be a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, the bill had to pass by a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the state legislature during one legislative session. The bill passed the Colorado Senate with a vote of 29-6 in April 2017. On May 8, a day before the end of the legislative session, the House passed the bill with a vote of 45-20.

The bill became Amendment V, and now it’s Colorado’s turn to weigh in.

On the ballot, Amendment V asks:

“Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a reduction in the age qualification for a member of the general assembly from twenty-five years to twenty-one years?”

A “yes” vote indicates that you do want to change the requirement so that people 21 and older can run for state Senate and House.

A “no” vote says that you want the age requirement to remain the same, meaning only Colorado residents 25 and older can serve in the General Assembly.

 

What do opponents say?

The amendment’s only registered opponent is Douglas Bruce, author of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, according to the Colorado Secretary of State Office.

“I think it’s a silly, politically correct gesture to curry favor to millennials,” Bruce said. “There’s no need for it, and people are just trying to show that they’re not old fogies.”

The age requirement has been in the law since the 1800s, he said, and “if you want to change the law you should have a good reason to change the law.”

Bruce argued: People who are 21 do not have sufficient life experience. Most of them don’t have a job and aren’t paying taxes. Since higher education takes four to six years to complete, these young adults haven’t experienced life.

As for 21-year-olds who went straight into the workforce after high school? “That’s fine, they’re already in the workforce,” he said. “People who are coddled by mommy and daddy are much less likely to have travelled the world and seen other cultures.

“That’s not who I want to have making important decisions.”

What do supporters say?

Two issue committees, Win the Fourth Colorado and Let Coloradans Serve, registered in support of Amendment V through the Colorado Secretary of State Office.

Young Democrats organized Let Coloradans Serve mostly to create Amendment V literature. Win the Fourth Colorado Issue Committee is tied to Win the Fourth Colorado, an independent expenditure committee that supports Democrats in Congressional District 4, currently represented by Ken Buck.

Donahue said the Young Democrats want more representation of younger people in the state legislature.The Colorado Independent reached out to both groups, but only received a response from the Colorado Young Democrats.

“Colorado is currently one of the only three states that has the House set at 25. All the other states have it set lower or have no limit,” she said. “We’re one of the few states that has it set as high for the Senate as well.”

Donahue wants to make the process open to everyone. To her, people 21 years old and older qualify because they are taxpaying citizens, have the right to vote, can serve in the military, buy lottery tickets and become homeowners.

“At the end of the day…these individuals still need to be elected,” Donahue said. “So voters get the chance to look at every candidate, determine if that’s the person they want to represent them, and then vote for them.”

New Era Colorado, a nonprofit organization that brings young people into politics, is another big supporter for Amendment V. It didn’t help push the bill through the legislature; however, it does actively support the measure through its campaigning projects.

New Era makes some of the same arguments as the Young Democrats, saying that Colorado is “behind the curve” because of its high age requirements for state office.

Charley Olena, advocacy director at New Era, said young people are already playing a leading role in shaping American debates around climate change, racial justice, LGBTQ rights and gun violence, she said.

People 34 and under make up 32 percent of our population in Colorado, but 3 percent of its state legislators, Olena said, citing statistics from the National Conference of State Legislators.

Regarding concerns about maturity, Olena argued: “If you’re mature enough to go through that process, to gain the support of your community, to raise the money that kind of things requires … then you are mature enough to be able to wade through the questions that are in front of our legislators every day.”

More counter arguments and counter-counter arguments

Anti Amendment V: The brain does not finish maturing until age 25, so younger people should not run.

Response: “It’s kind of an excuse that we see for devaluing young people’s voices in a lot of different ways,” Olena said.

Pro Amendment V: Millennials are underrepresented in the legislature, so they should run.

Response: “I think that’s a dumb argument. If you think that only someone like you can represent you, then only women can represent women, only orientals can represent orientals … ” Bruce told The Independent, before proceeding to cite more examples. 

Anti Amendment V: Millennials aren’t taxpayers, don’t have jobs or own homes, so they shouldn’t run.

“A lot of people under 25 pay taxes and have some sort of job. Being a homeowner is not a requirement for serving for office, and I think we need more elected officials who understand renters’ issues here in Colorado,” Donahue said.

Shannon is a master’s student in journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She specializes in environmental and political reporting and multimedia storytelling. Shannon moved to the Denver metro area from East Tennessee intending to stay for three months — four years later, she’s still finding new things to explore. She covered the Boulder city council election and local environmental issues for CU Boulder’s graduate publication, Under the Flatirons. As a staff writer for the CU Independent, Shannon worked on “The Trump Effect: Immigration

8 COMMENTS

  1. “The age requirement has been in the law since the 1800s, he said, and ‘if you want to change the law you should have a good reason to change the law.’”

    Interesting that Douglas Bruce calls himself a “conservative”, yet rejects fundamental principles upon which American “conservatism” is based.

    “The essence of right and wrong does not depend upon words and clauses inserted in a code or a statute-book, much less upon the conclusions and explications of lawyers; but upon reason and the nature of things, antecedent to all laws.”

    “Positive laws deriving their force from the law of nature, by which we are directed to make occasional rules, which we call laws, according to the exigencies of times, places, and persons, grow obsolete, or cease to be, as soon as they cease to be necessary.”
    “And it is as much against the law of nature to execute laws, when the first cause of them ceases, as it is to make laws, for which there is no cause, or a bad cause.”
    “Reason is in some degree given to all men; and Cicero says, that whoever has reason, has right reason;”
    “Let this stand for an instance, that laws are not always the measure of right and wrong.”

    -Excerpted from Cato’s Letters #42-

    Thomas Gordon and John Trenchard, Authored Cato’s Letters, which are considered by many to be among the most important influencers of the Founders of America.

    That being said, it would benefit all free humans in every society if proposed or enacted laws were required to contain thorough explanations as to why those laws were proposed or enacted.

    Who cares if a law has been around since the 1800’s?
    What is the reason and purpose for that law?

    Perhaps the reason and purpose is no longer relevent.

    Across the nation, and the world, there are numerous examples of completely archaic laws that are still on the books…for no other reason that a complete lack of sunsetting (an ending of a law due to lack of relevence or need or other cause).

    I suggest “conservatives” (actually pseudo-conservatives) read the book “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson.
    Just as change for the mere sake of change is likely illogical, so is uniformity for the mere sake of uniformity.

    Vitiorum emendatricem legem esse oportet, commendatricemque virtutum. [“Law ought to be a reformer of vice and an incentive to virtue.”].
    Not law just for the sake of law.

    Uniformity is often the product of corruption, faction, and fear.

    Nothing remains constant.
    Afterall, everything that is considered “normal”, “commonplace”, even “innovative” today, was once considered eccentric, scary, crazy, etc. in the past.

      • Ahhh, the logical fallacy of Ad hominem (Latin for “to the person”), short for argumentum ad hominem, is a fallacious argumentative strategy whereby genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided by instead attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.

        You criticize one for sharing their well-versed logical opinion, but commit the same error you criticize by not sharing thoughts on the amendment?

        Anger issues?
        Hypocrisy?
        Epistemophobia- Fear of knowledge?

        I can understand the context, meaning and relevance of the comment.
        Oftentimes meaningful dialog and productive discourse require thorough explanation/examinations.

      • So what, are you the comments police?

        This is one of the biggest problems with America today.
        People so angry they seemingly exist only to display and vent that anger against others, and against the freedoms of others.
        So many people are so angry and bitter all they can do is complain about what others are doing, even when those things don’t concern them, and have absolutely no impact on them.

        This is still a “free” country, despite attempts of people like you to restrict those freedoms.

        I still have the freedom of expression and speech.
        I maintain the right to express my thoughts in my own way.

        My comment was in regards to the nature of the article.
        I’ve absolutely no obligation to comply with your demands, nor relent to your attempted authoritarian impositions.

        I suggest you learn to deal with it, get a life outside your seeming bitter world and find a more productive hobby.
        Try sticking to the funny pages if you can’t comprehend complex thought.

        My stance on the issue is my own.
        Guess you’ll just have to agonize over the great unknown.

        Perhaps you should move to Russia….and take Herr Trump and Bruce with you.

      • This topic of the age of being able to run for public office is one of those topics which of necessity involves reflection and analysis, because it directly affects our republic. People write long comments because they typically engage complex topics which require background information and other ancillary information, that to have their comment make sense to those who are experiencing the concept for the first time. Intellectual sound bites don’t work for the deep thinker. They instead frustrate such an individual.

        We must have both in human society. Some of us have a burning desire to share with others what we have learned, in order to enrich their lives as we’ve enriched ours with the information. And some have an equally burning desire to learn the information. So we are not so much commenting to one another as we are teaching one another.

        The free and open sharing of perception is fundamental to the learning process of all primates greater and lessor. And it is our primary Darwinian advantage over the beasts of the field which neither think nor do they reason. So Ronnie’s proposal of communicating the reason and the purpose of laws fosters the forward progress of any society. Because that knowledge satisfies another uniquely human trait of desiring an answer to the question “Why?”

        But to each his and her own, and not wanting to know something is just as valid a human choice as wanting to know something. Those who are experts must understand not everyone wants to study and learn the same thing and in the same manner. Usually one who doesn’t know very much about your subject matter will know much about what interests that person, for they have spent their lives studying something else they know they can learn well. All of us must avoid “le snobism” which sometimes seeks to attach itself to our store of knowledge.

        Ronnie taught me new ideas and ways to look at things with his comment, and it augmented and further solidified my already existing knowledge of the same concepts. This is how we grow. The dialectic is the basis of intellect. And it is the fundamental process which is the glue that holds together what we call reality. You share your expertise with me, and I share mine with you, and then we both stagger home from the bar more enriched intellectually. That is one of the beautiful things about being human. It is the ability to share intellect in order to draw consensus about the nature of the things of our existence…until subsequent consensus on our part amends that perception and moves it further along the way to perfection.

        Fife’s “Epistemophobia- Fear of knowledge”

        Well, we have a punitive education system that “grades” human beings as if they are kerosene or chicken eggs. And it tells students they better get that homework turned in or suffer the consequences of public humiliation by way of low grades. And when the child doesn’t meet the state’s expectation of being property “graded,” the child is taught to believe beating himself or herself with sack cloth and ashes is the proper self-imposed punishment. We are human beings and not cattle, and placing the worth of a human being into an ersatz intellectual hierarchy is not a human thing to do. So some resist assimilation into the Borg hive mind as well they should. For resistance is not futile. And by doing so they exclaim, “Hear me! I am a human being!”

        I can understand an adult’s desire to avoid knowledge. For the more you know, the more you talk. And the more you talk, the more you expose yourself to ridicule and ad hominem attacks. For there will always be someone who says you don’t know what you’re talking about, and many times such an individual hasn’t even cracked open a book about the subject. He just wants to end the conversation before it begins.

        “Anti Amendment V: The brain does not finish maturing until age 25, so younger people should not run.”

        I would like to see numbers on that theory. Why not age 24 or age 26? Just because we have a base 10 counting system, it doesn’t mean our reality is divided into increments of 5. But you always see “5 Ways to Avoid a Nasty Divorce” or “10 Ways to Pay Your Divorce Attorney After You Lose Your Nasty Divorce.”

        The brain does not mature, the mind which is the creation of the brain matures. And if some in this state believe youngsters should not run for the Colorado General Assembly until age 25, they need to be reminded that youngsters age 18 are recognised by the law as having a mind sufficiently mature enough to vote to amend the United States Constitution. Such critics of Millennials don’t realize it but they have locked themselves into a paradox of their own making.

        “Bruce argued: People who are 21 do not have sufficient life experience. Most of them don’t have a job and aren’t paying taxes. Since higher education takes four to six years to complete, these young adults haven’t experienced life.”

        Really, Mr. Bruce? Not sufficient life experience at age 21, Mr. Bruce? And what’s this about paying taxes?

        Just FYI kinda stuff, but I was accepted into LSU Law School when I was age 20. I’m age 62 now. And my very own Millennial just turned age 21 last month. By age 20 he’d finished college with a degree in Radio & Television, and he’s already a DJ on a commercial FM radio station in major metropolitan market, and he’s a professional filmmaker.

        And guess what, Mr. Bruce? I know you’re age 69 and only a few years older than me, so please don’t have a cat — or should I say a mountain lion — when you read this. My 21-year-old Millennial son paid his own college, and he didn’t want a nickel from Mommy, by selling cars at a Lexus dealership.

        And what I know for certain will be even more of a Ben Swan-ish reality check for you, Mr. Bruce? I really must share this with you or I just won’t sleep tonight because of guilt. My son even pays taxes. The same taxes that pay your Social Security benefits. So maybe now you will realize how important Millennials are to keeping the heat in your house turned on through the cold Colorado winter a few weeks away. And how important Millennials are to the prevention of your starvation.

        Have a nice day, Mr. Bruce. And thank you for shopping K-Mart. :-)

    • Ha! I missed that.
      Sounds like Bruce is stuck in the 1800’s.

      “But this is how we’ve always done it”……
      Conservatives make great comics, just by being themselves.

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