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Miner Proposes Lowering Age for SD House from 21 to 18

Young Democratic activist Oliver Miner would like to add opportunities for young people of any political persuasion to participate in South Dakota democracy. The Eagle Butte High School senior is proposing an initiated constitutional amendment to make one simple change to Article 3 Section 3: he would change the minimum age for members of the South Dakota House from 21 to 18.

Miner’s amendment is blessedly simple: it strikes ten words—”and who has attained the age of twenty-one years”—from the state constitution, thus defaulting the qualification for House to “qualified elector.” That poses the interesting prospect of opening the door to even younger Representatives if we ever lower the voting age (and there is talk in Nebraska of letting 16-year-olds vote).

His amendment also suggests a clever compromise: it changes only the age for Representatives, not Senators. Rather than going for the whole enchilada (or reaching for other offices), Miner’s amendment opens just one door to earlier public  service and reaffirms the Senate’s reputation as the senior chamber.

Alas, the Legislative Research Council had to riddle Miner’s amendment with red ink. LRC offered no comment on the Miner’s simple ten-word strike; instead, they used their fifteen-day review period to dream up all sorts of unrelated style-and-form changes to Article 3 Section 3:

Miner Amendment
The Miner Amendment, the way Miner intended it.
LRC markup of Miner Amendment, 2019.04.17.
LRC markup of Miner Amendment, 2019.04.17.

I appreciate revising legal language for clarity as much as the LRC does, but for Pete’s sake! It’s not every ballot measure sponsor’s job to become the vehicle for every revision the LRC would like to make. Petition sponsors face the challenge of explaining their initiatives to petition signers and voters on the street. Sponsors get maybe 30 seconds of face time; when Miner can explain his intent—encourage young people to participate in politics by allowing 18-year-olds to run for House!—in that time by pointing to one simple change in the state constitution, why obscure that change with a dozen unrelated wording changes?

If LRC wants to update that language, LRC should encourage a legislator to put those changes on the ballot separately. If Miner wants to petition to lower the age for serving in the House from 21 to 18, he should be able to focus on that simple change and invite his fellow South Dakotans to debate and vote on it.


  1. Donald Pay 2019-04-24 09:37

    I recall an amendment in the 1990s that took it down to 21 from 25, I believe. I remember there was some discussion then about taking it down to 18. That seemed a step too far for many folks. The argument was that eighteen year olds may still be in high school. Many people seem to take high school graduation as the transition from adolescence into adulthood.

    I think 18-21 year old citizens have a lot to offer. In retirement, I have been taking classes with this age group. I find them bright and engaging. They are certainly far more experienced with the education system than most adults who are older, and education is a big chunk of state outlays. Besides, there is this: this age group is taxed, but they don’t necessarily have representation. If this amendment passes, it might encourage young people, even if they themselves don’t run, to vote.

  2. Debbo 2019-04-24 15:30

    ” ‘Students for Trump’ founder charged with fraud, bilking would-be clients, and faking his identity.” Daily Kos

    Well, the GOP is certainly trying to manipulate them. It seems only fair that they have some say in matters like whether they’ll have a livable planet or functional democracy in their future.

    My experiences with young people are similar to Don’s. I find them very impressive people and feel they should be enfranchised. They’ve certainly got more on the ball than most MAGAts.

  3. Edwin Arndt 2019-04-24 20:54

    Does that mean that you could be elected to the legislature
    before you can buy beer? Is that really logical? And some
    folks in Nebraska are talking changing the voting age to 16.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-04-24 21:55

    Hmm… members of the Legislature who can’t drink alcohol could be a step in the right direction.

  5. Debbo 2019-04-24 23:35

    That’s what I was thinking Cory. 😀

    I don’t have a problem with 16 yos voting even if they can’t drink. A voting age of 16 might be a good thing. It’s not like the older voters have a lot to be proud of lately.

    Well, the 2018 US House vote was outstanding, but there have been several decades prior that fairly well stunk up the country.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-04-25 23:09

    Donald, interesting point about electing more people who are closer to education. I wonder: would fresh high school graduates be more or less likely to increase funding for their former teachers and almas mater?

  7. Kathy Bergquist 2019-04-26 08:49

    Minor, not miner. I was confused until I checked the dictionary.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-04-26 17:06

    I was confused on Oliver’s spelling of his name, but he set me straight: not Minor like young or less important, but Miner like the man who brings home the gold!

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