April 09, 2001 11:00 pm

Allow young voters

to run for assembly

Teens in Oregon can do a lot of things when they turn 18. They can buy cigarettes and lottery tickets if they wish. They cant drink alcoholic beverages until they turn 21, but they can vote.

ANOTHER thing they cannot do until theyre 21 is serve in Oregons Legislative Assembly. House Joint Resolution 16, proposed by Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, would reverse that. Bradbury decided to propose the bill, which would refer the questions to Oregon voters, after he was asked at a town hall meeting last spring why 18-year-olds, who have other civic rights, cannot run for the Oregon House or Senate.

Bradbury wasnt able to come up with a good reason, and we suspect that other Oregonians are at a loss to defend the restriction, too.

The secretary of state points out that only 6 percent of the votes counted in the 1998 primary election were cast by 18- to 34-year olds. He believes that number will grow if 18-year-olds are allowed to run for the Legislature and feel more a part of the political system.

Seventeen states have a lower age standard for the Legislature. Those states noted a 5 percent higher turnout in the 1996 general election than in states where Legislature candidates must be 21 years or above.

The practical matter is that not many 18- to 20-year-olds will file for the House or Senate. People much older than that, who are much further along in their careers, in raising their families or in experiencing politics, tend to run for state office. The average age in the Oregon Legislature is 53.8 years, according to The Oregonian.

But younger voters will feel empowered, knowing that the option of running for the Legislature is open to them. Bradbury suggests that engaging young people in the political process now will help build a strong foundation for the future.

And you never know. A young person age 18-20 running successfully for the Legislature today might be one of Oregons great governors down the road. Its not right to deny younger voters the opportunity of service in Salem just because they havent reached the age when they can order a drink.

Why only larger cities?

The Oregon House passed a bill Friday to expand the use of cameras that automatically snap pictures of motorists who run red-lights at problem intersections.

House Bill 2380 allows cameras to operate at four intersections in cities with more than 30,000 residents. Portland could have cameras working at eight intersections.

If the red-light cameras are such a great idea, why place a city population limitation on them? La Grande, Baker City or Enterprise might have a problem intersection. Smaller cities should be able to use the technology if a problem exists and they can afford the cameras.