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Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln wants to lower the voting age in Nebraska to 16.

Today's 16-year-olds are educated, informed and "fully capable" of helping choose the elected officeholders who represent them in state and local offices, Wishart said.

"Voting is a habit-forming process," she said, and high school students are "at a time of life when they are preparing to move into college and step out independently."

Should Nebraskans be able to vote at age 16?

A Lincoln senator plans to propose a bill to lower the voting age to 16.

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Wishart said she was inspired to propose the voting age change after a conversation with a young German woman who had been voting since she was 16 and, as a result, was "so much more engaged and informed than I was about local politics" at a similar age.

In Germany, 16-year-olds are allowed to vote in municipal elections; the voting age is 18 for other elections.

Wishart said newly eligible young voters could register at the same time they acquire drivers permits at age 16.

Nebraska voters defeated a proposed constitutional amendment to lower the state's voting age from 21 to 19 in 1968 on a narrow 255,051 to 246,672 vote.

In 1970, they approved a reduction in the voting age to 20 with a 55 percent majority.

In 1971, a U.S. constitutional amendment lowered the voting age to 18 in federal elections and Nebraska voters subsequently adopted that age limit for state elections on a 70 percent vote.

In Nebraska, 17-year-olds can vote in primary elections if they will turn 18 prior to the general election.

Wishart mentioned her proposal during a legislative forum hosted by the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce. During a subsequent telephone interview, she said she will have more to say about how she plans to proceed after the bill is drafted. Staff research already has been completed, she said. 

Earlier this year, a Washington, D.C., city councilman proposed lowering the voting age threshold from 18 to 16 in the District of Columbia. Three cities in Maryland allow 16-year-olds to vote in local elections; and in Berkeley, California, 16-year-olds may vote in school board elections only.

In California, a new law provides for preregistration of 16- and 17-year-olds when they get a drivers license.  

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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