The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on November 3, 1968 · Page 147
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November 3, 1968

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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 147

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West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Sunday, November 3, 1968
Page:
Page 147
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Page 147 article text (OCR)

Should 1 8-year-olds be allowed to enter a contract, be accountable for debts, buy liquor, use birth control pills without permission and . . . vote? A OLASSiG ABOUT FOR RMM lower the voting age? ; If they're old enough to fight and die for this country, they're old enough to vote ! ' ' You'll hear this statement as the most prevalent among those who champion the cause of lowering the voting age in Florida to 18 years. It isn't valid, but it is popular. The 1968 session of the Florida State Legislature on Constitutional Revision wrestled with the question to a draw. The Senate passed the measure and the House turned it down. The vote was 54-51 in favor, but the needed three-fifths majority for a Constitutional amendment was lacking. Jack Harper, reporting for All Florida Magazine from Tallahassee, says the proposal has been a continuing one through the past decade every time Constitutional revision came to the fore. And the arguments are classic. "Nathan Hale, American patriot shot by the British in the Revolutionary War, had never voted!" said Representative Ben C. Williams, Democrat from Port St. Joe. "He, and others like him, have set the pattern for our fighting men." Hale was 21 years old when he gave the history books the famous quote: "I have only one regret . . .that I have only one life to give for my country." Legislators, looking at college demonstrations and the muscle given Senator Eugene McCarthy's nationwide campaign by teen-agers, apparently fear the young of America will tend to be liberal. Idealistic, perhaps. But the vote for youth gets approval from young and old. In the Florida Senate, for instance, the oldest and youngest member agree. Sixty-five-year-old Joseph McClellan (R. Tampa) said, "Youngsters are better educated today than ever before. Their participation in Florida politics would be like a breath of fresh air." And 25-year-old Senator Dennis J. Patrick O'G-rady (R. Inverness) added, "The arbitrary age of 21 is old fashioned. At 18 today a young man or woman is out of high school on a job earning a living and beginning a family, in college studying current events as never before, or in the service of the country." Charging fear of the young voter, Sen. Edmond Gong (D. Miami) told the session this year that legislators voting against the amendment "have no courage, no guts, and are afraid." Gong declared that nearly half the population of the nation is under 25 and that the future of the country depends on young people participating in government. From the other side, both legislative and at large, the word 'responsibility' is thrown on the screen of controversy. "Full responsibility of citizens should go with the privilege of the vote," contends Sen. John J. Fisher (R. Jacksonville). The argument proposes that 18-year-olds should also be allowed to enter a contract, be accountable for their debts, buy liquor, and use the birth control pill without getting permission from anyone. It is inconsistent, they declare, to extend one privilege and not the others. In effect, these legislators feel participation in government requires judgment that comes with maturity. Teen-agers are expected to try out new theories, revolt against authority and make their mistakes but not in the political arena at the expense of the country. At academic level this view Isn't shared. Particularly by Dr. Ernest R. Bartley, a political science professor at the University of Florida. "If you leave the average kid alone," Dr. 4 All Florida Magazine

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