NYRA Freedom

ISSN 1933-5229

Volume 5, Issue 6

June 6, 2005


NYC Voting Age Bill
Fundraising Contest Successful
NYRA Appears in USA Today, Fox News
Student Drug Testing in Texas
Berkeley Voting Age Update
Chapter News
News from the Web


May was another great month for NYRA. Fundraising is one of NYRA’s top goals this year, and over the past few months we have raised more money than we have ever done before. Chapters continue to thrive in California, Vermont, and elsewhere, and we are a continued presence in the media. Perhaps most importantly, a bill to lower the voting age is about to be introduced in New York City. Due largely to the efforts of Councilwoman Gale Brewer and The Future Voters of America Party, the bill would allow sixteen and seventeen year olds to vote in New York’s local elections.

Voting Age Bill in New York

NYRA has recently attained a considerable degree of success and notoriety surrounding efforts to lower the voting age in Olympia, Washington, and the San Francisco Bay Area. NYRA has just learned that in addition to these aforementioned efforts, a bill to lower the voting age will soon go before the New York City Council. Originally proposed by the Future Voters of America Party and introduced by Councilwoman Gale Brewer, the bill would allow sixteen and seventeen year olds to vote in local elections. Councilwoman Brewer is very influential, and the bill is expected to get a lot of support from other area politicians.

A press conference will be held Wednesday, June 8th, at 11:30 am on the steps of City Hall. At 1 pm that same day, the bill will be formally introduced. NYRA-President Alex Koroknay-Palicz will travel to New York, and local NYRA activists will also be on hand. All NYRA members are encouraged to attend the press conference and watch as the bill is put before the city council. It is imperative that a lot of friendly faces come and rally around what will be a historic measure. This one of the best and most exciting things that has ever occurred in the youth rights movement. If things go as expected, an unprecedented degree of attention will be paid to the voting age, and youth rights issues in general. All youth rights supporters should thank the great efforts of FVAP in getting the issue raised in New York. Alex Koroknay-Palicz has said that “After three years of building steam, the youth rights movement is now knocking on the door of the nation’s largest city. This is a historic opportunity for the movement, only good things will follow.”

Fundraising Contests Successful

At its monthly meeting in February, NYRA’s Board of Directors agreed to have two fundraising contests. One contest was between the various NYRA chapters. The board agreed to award t shirts and assorted supplies to the chapter that raised the most money before June 1st. The board also agreed to award cash and other prizes to the three individuals who raised the most money on their own.

The fundraising contests were an overwhelming success by all accounts. Since the contests began, NYRA has raised over $3,500. NYRA’s Berkeley Chapter raised $864 dollars, making them the winners of the chapter contest. NYRA-Vermont was a close second at $849 and NYRA-DC finished third at $742. NYRA chapters in New York City and Rochester New York also raised a great deal of money, $385 and $306 respectively.

The individual contest was also very competitive. NYRA-DC’s President Katrina Moncure sent in a $500 check towards the end of the contest, making her the winner of the individual contest. NYRA Treasurer Rio Bauce placed second. Rio raised $420. NYRA-Vermont’s Secretary Hardy Machia came in third at $350. Special thanks to everyone who raised money during the duration of the contest. While this is very exciting news, NYRA is still a very under funded organization. It is still important that members donate what ever they can.

NYRA Appears in USA Today, Fox News

USA today recently published a big piece on the driving age and restrictions placed on teen drivers. NYRA-DC Vice President Alexis Grant was part of a round table discussion on these issues, and she was photographed and quoted extensively in USA Today. USA Today is a widely read national publication, and this article has exposed many people to NYRA. Alexis presented our arguments well, and a lot of people who read the article may have begun to consider youth rights for the first time.

Some members of the panel were hostile towards teen drivers, and felt that the driving age should be raised. Alexis argued that teenagers ought to have the right to drive if they choose. She also stressed that parents should teach responsibility from an early age to promote automobile safety. Later she was quoted as saying black boxes used to monitor teen driving are an invasion of privacy. Visit this link to read the USA Today articles, and watch a video featuring Alexis Grant. Also be sure to vote in the poll on youth driving.

The USA Today articles lead to a Fox News segment on young people and driving. Alex Koroknay-Palicz appeared on the Fox News network to argue against raising the driving age. He stressed that if the reasons cited to keep young people from driving were extended to their logical conclusion, men would not be permitted to drive either. He also said that NYRA is not necessarily opposed to graduated licensing, but that NYRA is opposed to teenagers being the only people subjected to it.

Student Drug Testing in Texas

The Vidor Independent School District, in Vidor, Texas, is likely to approve a measure that would require students who drive to school or participate in extra curricular activities to submit to drug tests. This rule would violate Tinker v. Des Moines, the Supreme Court ruling that has become the corner stone of students’ rights. The drug testing policy would also be a gross invasion of privacy.

Two Vidor students, Ashley and Brittany Graham, began circulating a petition against the proposed policy. They gathered a few dozen signatures before Principal Lynn Hancock told them they could not circulate the petition on school grounds. The Graham family, disgusted by this flagrant infringement on their first amendment rights, contacted the National Youth Rights Association. NYRA’s Student Defense Coordinator Chris Batchelor wrote a letter to Hancock, stating that the schools action were illegal, and grounds for a law suit. This letter resulted in an article in South East Texas Live, which quoted NYRA-President Alex Koroknay-Palicz.

The school responded to NYRA’s letter, claiming that the petition would create a disruption. But this was not the school’s reason for stopping the circulation of the petition. Hancock told the Graham sisters petitions were not allowed at all. Hancock made a similar statement to a reporter. The Grahams are considering a lawsuit, but they want to keep all of their options open.

NYRA-Berkeley Update

When we last reported on the Berkeley voting age campaign, things were going really well. NYRA-Berkeley’s proposal had passed the youth commission almost unanimously, and chapter officials were optimistic about an upcoming city council meeting. Unfortunately, the effort to lower the voting age did not get the five votes necessary to pass the Berkeley City Council. Four council members voted in favor, two voted against, and three abstained. While this did not pass, it came very close, and it was still a tremendous show of force. In other news, the Berkeley Youth Commission elected NYRA-Berkeley Treasurer Rio Bauce to serve as the Youth Commission’s Chair.

The people behind the efforts in Berkeley have moved their attention to San Francisco. The San Francisco Youth Commission voted to support the idea with an overwhelming vote of 13 to 1. After the youth commission, NYRA-Berkeley’s proposal will go to the Board of Supervisors, where they know they have at least one supporter willing to introduce the bill. This is still an uphill battle that hinges on the state allowing cities to lower their voting ages. However, the situation is pretty promising in San Francisco, and the campaign in Berkeley generated a really good article in a local paper.

Chapter News

NYRA Vice President Robert Reynolds recently stepped down as President of NYRA Berkeley. Before he became involved with the national office, Robert founded the Berkeley chapter and he has been integral to its success ever since. Pamela Tatz has replaced Robert, she will serve as President of the chapter until they hold elections.

NYRA-Vermont recently held officer elections. The new chapter President is Jay Leff, who previously served as the chapters Vice President. The new Vice President is Heavenly Ryan, and Jeremy Ryan will serve as Treasurer. Hardy Machia will continue to function as the chapter Secretary. Cecilia DeKorne and Sarah McAbee were elected High School Outreach Director and College Outreach Director, respectively. Chapter officials recently met with students in Burlington, where a subdivision of the Vermont chapter is soon expected to take shape.

News From the Web

Keeping teen drivers safe begins at home (USA Today)
Black boxes for cars slow to catch on (USA Today)
Vidor students petition to stop drug-testing plan
Nairobi Looks to Lower Age to Run for President
Bill Would Lower Drinking Age to 19 for Soldiers in Wisconsin
Vote at 16 Drive Shifts


Though we still have a long way to go, 2005 is shaping up to be a great year for NYRA. Each month for the past few months I have said we are doing better then ever before, and each month it is true. With the voting age effort in San Francisco, and a new bill to lower the voting age in America’s largest city, youth suffragists are gaining momentum on both coasts as never before. NYRA remains in the limelight, and is at the forefront of a battle over the driving age. -Scott Davidson