Election Law

Teens too young to vote jump into Kansas governor race; bill would increase minimum age

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State lawmakers in Kansas are reacting to the entry of six teenagers who are too young to vote but have entered the state's gubernatorial race.

Among them is 17-year-old Jack Bergeson, who entered the Democratic primary after discovering there are no restrictions on who can run, report the New York Times, NPR and the Washington Post.

“My platform is somewhat modeled on the Bernie Sanders platform,” Bergeson told NPR in an interview. He wants to raise the minimum wage and to legalize marijuana, with revenue raised going to fund education. Bergeson, of Wichita, has been using “Feel the Berg” as a slogan, but is also using the phrase “real change right now” on bumper stickers and T-shirts.

Other teen candidates are seeking the Republican nomination or running as an independent. The Republican teens can’t participate in a party debate, however, because they aren’t eligible unless they voted in the 2014 election.

Kansas lawmakers are reacting to the development. A bill that passed out of committee last week would require candidates for statewide office to be at least 18 years old. Even if it passes, it won’t take effect until after the current election.

Bergeson says he is opposed to the bill because “it’s reactionary.” He believes a better idea is to lower the voting age to 16.

Currently, those who vote in Kansas must be 18 and must show a photo ID when voting. Those registering to vote must also show proof of citizenship. The state’s voter ID law is among the strictest in the nation, according to NPR.

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