#GivingTuesday coming up – triple your donation!

Posted by on November 22nd, 2017

There’s a very exciting opportunity coming up for us next week. On Tuesday, November 28th after 8 AM, the Gates Foundation is teaming up with Facebook to match funds to non-profits up to $50,000 for each non-profit. We also have matching funds from an anonymous donor, which means that any donation we receive through Facebook or through http://youthrights.org/give  after 8 AM on #GivingTuesday can be tripled! You can turn $50 into $150!

Will you support us? There are two quick actions you can take:

Action #1 – Create a Facebook fundraiser: You can set up your own fundraiser AND invite 10-20 friends to donate to NYRA.

  • Go to http://www.facebook.com/fundraisers and select “Raise money.”
  • Select Non-profit; then National Youth Rights Association
  • Select the total money you can raise as $1,000, and make sure the fundraiser goes through November 28.
  • Select an image. You can use the one we created here: Facebook #GivingTuesday cover photo
  • On Tuesday November 28, at 8 AM EST, invite friends to the fundraiser.
  • Let us know!

If you can’t donate, this helps us to spread the word. Please email us to let us know you set one up so we can maximize our funds! 

Action #2 – Set a reminder to donate: This opportunity is only available on next Tuesday, and it starts at 8 A.M. (EST). It’ll be going for several hours, but it is better to donate earlier so that our chance of getting matching funds is increased. Going to http://youthrights.org/give will direct you a Facebook fundraiser where your funds can be tripled!  Join our event on Facebook.

An interview with the voting age activists of Greenbelt, MD

Posted by on November 17th, 2017

Members of the Greenbelt Youth Action Committee hand out flyers and campaign to lower the voting age
Jeremy Tuthill and Julia Sharapi of Greenbelt’s Youth Advisory Committee campaign to lower the voting age.

In last week’s elections, the voters of Greenbelt, MD voted 53% in support of lowering the voting age to 16 in local elections. This non-binding referendum was the first time that voters in the US have chosen to lower the voting age to 16 for all local elections.* NYRA staff interviewed two of the people, Ema Smith, Chair of Greenbelt’s Youth Advisory Committee, and Julia Sharapi, its Secretary, on their hard work in bringing about this historic victory.

NYRA: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got interested in lowering the voting age?

Julia: Sure, I’m currently 17-years-old and I joined the Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) just after I turned 15. At that point the Committee was looking into lowering the voting age, but it wasn’t a pressing issue for most of us. It was really Ema that pushed for it and it wasn’t until we did the research and I learned more about it that I thought it would be great idea – to be able to get that experience before going to college before I have to do it on my own.

Ema: In 2015, I saw in a local newspaper that the Youth Advisory Committee was going to look at the lowering the voting age and that really interested me in a positive way.  I joined the Committee and was still a new member when we sent in our first report. In 2016, I was elected Chair of the committee and I did more research on the issue and I’ve solidly stood on the side [of lowering the voting age] ever since.

NYRA: You mentioned that this was a two-year process. Can you walk us through that?

Ema: In 2015, a citizen proposed the issue of lowering the voting age to the City Council in response to what happened in Hyattsville [a town close to Greenbelt that lowered its voting age]. The Council referred this issue to YAC. We then researched it and came up with a recommendation to the Council to lower the voting age.

Julia: When we first talked to City Council they were hesitant. In 2015, they asked voters if they supported lowering the voting age and even though less than 20% of voters voted, a majority did not want it lowered. The City Council referred the matter to two boards: Advisory Board on Education and the Community Relations Advisory Board. We did more research and created presentations for these Boards. We also conducted a poll of high school students to see if they wanted to vote and would be willing to vote. Most 16- and 17-year-olds felt they were mature enough.

Ema: We also attended work sessions that really nailed down the specifics of the amendment and had a public meeting when the Council decided to put it to a referendum. We made brochures and canvassed different neighborhoods. I encouraged my mom to write a letter to the editor of our local newspaper. We attended voter rallies for City Council members and brought it up at city debates to keep it fresh in people’s minds.

NYRA: That’s a lot of work. When you were canvassing or talking to the public in general what was the response like?

Julia: Previously with the council, if they didn’t support us they were very polite about it. But during canvassing, we’d get people saying “No, you’re alright, but my grandkids are irresponsible,” and I realized “Oh yeah, there are people who don’t think this is a good idea.” It was unexpected.

Ema: With adults I generally try to explain the reasons why. Most people think it’s interesting and even if they aren’t initially inclined [to support the idea] they become more accepting. We got a positive response with young people. In the poll of high school students, we got 100 responses, and 89% said they supported lowering the voting age.

NYRA: What are the next steps?

Julia: The City Council still has to vote on it. We believe they will vote yes, but we’re also going to collect contact information of 16- and 17-year-olds to get them to attend the meeting when the Council votes on it.

NYRA: What advice do you have for other people working on lowering the voting age in their area?

Ema: Just make sure people are aware and that you educate the public on the arguments.

Julia: Keep it positive. It’s hard when you’re told that people our age are disrespectful and irresponsible, but we kept moving forward. We were nervous [the referendum wouldn’t pass], but it’s possible, if you really believe in something and believe it’s right.

NYRA: Thank you!

Are you inspired by the success in Greenbelt and want to start your own campaign? Check out our resources on the voting age and start a NYRA Chapter!

*Berkeley, CA voters agreed to lower the voting age to 16, but only for School Board Elections.

This interview has been edited for clarity.


Support the New YouthRights.org!

Posted by on August 17th, 2017

NYRA’s current website was redesigned in 2011 and while it looked great for the time, it is now dated in both style and function. The current site doesn’t load smoothly, isn’t mobile friendly and hasn’t kept up with modern design standards.

So NYRA is now working on a brand new website, and we need your help.

YouthRights.org is a go-to resource for comprehensive information about the rights of young people and the fight against ageism. Our resources are used every day by students researching these issues, or people looking to take action for their rights. The website is an important tool for educating the public about youth rights, and it needs to be updated.

We are hiring professional designers to make YouthRights.org really pop. Since we won’t be doing this in-house, we need to raise money to support the project. We have solicited bids and are speaking with web designers right now. The project will cost around $2,000-2,500. Will you contribute to make it happen?

$1,289.20 of $2,500 Raised

All donations are tax-deductible and will go directly to the website redesign project.

Speaking out against curfew laws in Fort Worth, TX

Posted by on January 27th, 2017
Fort Worth skyline at night

As night falls in Fort Worth, Texas, young people will have to worry about whether they will be stopped by the police just for being outside.

NYRA Chapter leader Bryce Hall spoke out against extending the juvenile curfew law in his home town of Fort Worth, Texas last Tuesday. He and other NYRA members attended the city’s Council meeting, where Bryce testified on the negative impact of curfew laws in his community. Unfortunately, the council decided to extend the curfew law for another three years. However, Bryce and other NYRA chapter leaders will continue to advocate for freedom of movement, voting rights, and youth rights in general. Below is a copy of Bryce’s speech to the Fort Worth City Council.

My name is Bryce Hall. I am a resident of the 91st district and am the current president of the Texas Vote16 Campaign, a campaign working with the National Youth Rights Association to ensure and support youth rights. My colleagues and I believe that there should be no further extension on curfew for Fort Worth teenage residents because any kind of government action of discrimination requires a compelling state interest. This means in order to restrict a constitutional right, you need to prove that this curfew laws actually stops crime. Curfew laws in other states have been found to be unconstitutional; is the City Council willing to spend taxpayer money to defend this law in court?

Let’s think about this rationally. Curfew laws are intended to stop young people from committing crimes by making them stay inside. If a person intends to commit a crime by stealing a car, vandalizing a home, or deal drugs why would they have any respect for another law that made it illegal to be outside? Aren’t laws against auto-theft, property damage, and drug dealing enough? Is policing otherwise law-abiding behavior the best use of police resources? In fact, violent crimes by juveniles peak in the afternoon between 3pm and 4pm and that rate of crime drops nearly 30% by midnight.

Also, many impoverished families have parents that work two jobs. Teenagers in those families have adult responsibilities, such as caring for his/her younger siblings. However, it’s very difficult to do so, with limited time.

Lastly, having a curfew can make it very difficult as a working teenager. For example, 80% of youth have current jobs, many of those jobs are requiring teens to stay until around 11:30pm. And, I myself am a waiter and my workplace gets very busy around 10:30-11pm. My economic responsibility should not be limited by a curfew. Job owners might even realize that curfew is a problem, and decide not to hire myself or any other hard working juvenile. I also have to worry about being stopped by the police and am not allowed to on an errand on my way home.

In conclusion, we believe there should be no time limit for the hard-working youth of Fort Worth that live a double-standard of having adult responsibilities, but not rights.

Youth Rights Election Results

Posted by on November 9th, 2016

NYRA Presents: Youth Rights Election ResultsWhile the shocking upset for president is at the forefront of media coverage right now, there were several youth rights issues on the ballot yesterday that should not be forgotten. NYRA is very pleased to announce victories on a ballot measure in Berkeley, California to lower the voting age and a non-binding ballot question to lower the drinking age in Massachusetts. The much anticipated Prop F in San Francisco that would lower the voting age to 16 for local elections looks like it will lose narrowly. Finally, voters in the town of Oregon, Ohio approved a new curfew law.

Victory in San Francisco looked promising last night, with 53% of the vote in favor of lowering the voting age with 40% of precincts reporting. Unfortunately, the winning side switched as more ballots came in. Currently, with all precincts reporting it looks like lowering the voting age in San Francisco will lose 47% to 53%. Late-arriving vote-by-mail and provisional ballots still need to be counted, but it doesn’t look like that’ll be enough for victory.

Such a close result is still historic for supporters of a lower voting age. The campaign was unquestionably the best organized and most active one for a 16-year-old voting age that this country has ever seen. Vote16USA summed it up well:

This weekend, youth leaders and campaign staff in San Francisco mobilized 169 youth to support the campaign. Youth filled 191 shifts, called 16,000+ voters, sent personal text messages (a highly effective digital organizing tool) to 25,000+ voters, and hit the streets to engage with voters around the city.

NYRA members and others across the country helped phone bank for the Yes on F campaign, and it is truly inspiring to see how far the campaign had come.

But there is plenty of good news today. Measure Y1 in Berkeley California passed with a resounding 68.1% of the vote. The measure provides for 16 & 17 year olds to vote for the School Board Director. Berkeley will become the third city in the United States to allow 16-year-olds to vote in local elections. After years of fighting for a lower voting age by NYRA-Berkeley, the campaign was picked up by a new generation this year and yesterday saw victory.

We have great news for the campaign to lower the drinking age as well. NYRA member Matthew Malone made the case that the drinking age of 21 was age discrimination against young people. Voters agreed. The non-binding measure in Amherst, Massachusetts was won with a vote of 8,483 in favor to 8,173 against. While non-binding, the measure instructs their state representatives to introduce legislation to lower the drinking age to 19. The president of the Massachusetts state senate, Stan Rosenberg, represents the district. NYRA is glad to see this vote succeed and show the support that voters have for lowering the drinking age and their opposition to ageism.

Matthew Malone told us that, “The voting results of this ballot question on the drinking age shows that there is public support for a lower drinking age and voters might like the idea of a split-age drinking age.”

He vows to continue fighting for a lower drinking age in Massachusetts. This won’t be the last measure that goes on the ballot.

Support Prop F! Help Lower the Voting Age in San Francisco!

Posted by on November 3rd, 2016

We have a historic opportunity to lower the voting age in San Francisco, and we NEED YOUR HELP!

No matter your age, no matter where you live, you can help make calls to San Francisco voters. And this is a critical moment. A recent poll put support for lowering the voting age at 48%. We are so, so close! YOU can help put us over the top and make history in San Francisco.

There is less than a week to go till the election, we are phone banking these last few days to get to victory. Make a few calls (or a lot of calls!) to tell voters that Prop F is lowering the voting age and make sure they vote YES.

Sign up to Phone Bank Here:

Instructions on Phone Banking

NYRA Launches Curfew Law List

Posted by on October 24th, 2016

Curfew laws

Does your town have a curfew law? Can you be arrested just for going outside?

Now you can find out! Building upon our long-standing curfew resource page, NYRA has created a list of over 400 towns, cities, counties, and states where it is illegal for young people to be outside of their homes at certain times of the day. This list does NOT include emergency curfews, areas where curfews apply to everyone, or automatic curfews resulting from a criminal conviction. It includes both nighttime and daytime curfews (which are used to target truancy), but this list should in no way be considered exhaustive.

As far as we know, this is the most comprehensive list of curfew laws anywhere online. You are encouraged to read the exact code in the link provided, as many of these laws have multiple exceptions, such as permission from a parent or guardian, or exercising your First Amendment Rights. You can also research the penalties, which can range from fines, to community service, to jail time for both the young person and their parents.

If you are looking for a curfew in your area, remember that curfews can be set at the state, county, and city level. Times are understood to begin on the night of the day listed (even when the time listed is after midnight) and continuing to the next morning.

Drinking Age on the Ballot in Massachusetts

Posted by on October 24th, 2016

Lowering the drinking age will be on the ballot in Amherst, MA!

I am a long time NYRA member and thanks to my petitioning efforts, next month in Amherst Massachusetts voters will be able to vote on whether or not the drinking age should be lowered to 19 for beer & wine.

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 was passed on July 17, 1984. It forced states to have a minimum age of at least age 21 to purchase and possess alcoholic beverages. States with a minimum drinking age lower than age 21 would lose ten percent of their annual federal highway funds. Therefore, although each state legally sets its own minimum drinking age, we have a de facto national drinking age of 21.

Over 30 years later, we still have a national drinking age of 21. Every few years there is a legislative effort at the state level to loosen the drinking age. A state legislator is able to introduce a bill into committee but the drinking age bill dies in that committee and never faces a vote before the full legislature. Direct democracy through the ballot question process is the best way for an issue with popular support but is politically incorrect to advance. In Massachusetts, the statewide ballot question process have been used twice concerning alcohol. In 1930 an initiative petition question supporting the repeal of prohibition was passed. In 1972 an initiative petition question supporting the lowering of the drinking age from age 21 to age 18 passed.

I chose to lead an effort to put a public policy (non-binding, advisory) question (PPQ) on the ballot that asks the state representative to support legislation that would lower the drinking age to age 19 for wines and malt beverages (i.e. beer) and to maintain the drinking age at age 21 for all other alcoholic beverages (i.e. hard liquor). This question will appear on the November 2016 ballot in the 3rd Hampshire (Amherst, Pelham and the northern half of Granby) state representative district of Massachusetts. I envision a law that would allow 19 and 20-year olds to buy beer and wine in a restaurant or liquor store and allow 21-year-olds to also purchase and consume hard liquor in bars and liquor stores.

I put this PPQ on the ballot in this district for several reasons:

First, no person or group yet has the financial resources to put a question on the drinking on the ballot statewide. However, Choose Responsibility has attracted foundation funding to fund a white paper on the minimum drinking age and to build a website.

Second, a local ballot question is a pilot project for a statewide ballot question. If the local ballot question is successful then it may attract the funds necessary to put it on the ballot statewide.

Third, the ballot requirements for a PPQ in Massachusetts are the lowest that I know of. Only 200 certified signatures are required to put a PPQ on the ballot in a state representative district in Massachusetts.

Fourth, the 3rd Hampshire state representative district is the home of three colleges: Amherst College, Hampshire College and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. There are over 30,000 higher education students in this representative district.

Fifth, Amherst is the hometown of the president of the Massachusetts state senate, Stanley Rosenberg.

Sixth, this PPQ will inform the public and elected officials of where actual voters stand concerning the 21-year old drinking age in the year 2016. Lastly, I believe that the highway funds obstacle can be overcome. John McCardell of Choose Responsibility has stated that states should be able to get a waiver from the federal government, for at least 5 years, so they could experiment with a lower drinking age without losing federal highway funds.

If you live in the area, or know anyone who does, please spread the word about lowering the drinking age! Be sure to vote!

Non-binding ballot question about lowering the drinking age

The First “Underage” US Presidential Candidate Does Well in Green Party Primaries

Posted by on August 6th, 2016

Elijah Manley speaks at Green Presidential Nominating Convention 2016
History was made yesterday when 17-year-old Elijah D. Manley gave a speech at the Green Party Presidential Nominating Convention on Saturday, August 6, 2016, in Houston, Texas. Elijah is the first “underaged” presidential nominee to make it to a state ballot – two states, in his case – of one of the two largest third parties in the USA. This took a huge amount of work on his part, along with considerable support from the many true progressives within the Green Party. This also happened despite strong ageist opposition and obstruction from the centrists who are part of the Greens (which, sadly, includes the Co-Chair of the national party). In a big leap forward for youth rights, Elijah got on the Green ballot in two states, Maryland and his home state of Florida, where he took 41% of the vote, with only Green powerhouse Dr. Jill Stein coming in ahead! Though all the delegates from Maryland gave their votes to Stein, three of the seven delegates from Florida gave their votes to Elijah, with Stein receiving the other four. Unexpectedly, the District of Columbia gave Elijah a quarter of its delegate votes, with another quarter going to William Kreml and the remaining one and a half going to Stein. This was an extraordinary primary turn-out from the first “underage” presidential candidate to run a serious campaign.

Moreover, from listening to recordings of that speech, you will see that Elijah made a strong endorsement of incorporating youth liberation into the national platform of the Greens, to which he received a loud round of applause. He received further applause upon mentioning the hard work he has done for the recent initiative to lower the voting age to 16 in many U.S. municipalities, including his home Florida county of Broward. Elijah has been working to establish a chapter of NYRA in Broward County, whose Facebook group you can find here.

Elijah’s platform on youth rights, both for his candidacy as a Green and for the youth liberation organization Continental Youth Assembly (which he co-founded), have included not only the end to age restrictions on voting, but also opposition to corporal punishment, a ban on infant circumcision, the democratization of the schooling system – including student membership on the local school board, the end to standardized testing and the demeaning grading system, and the availability of alternative opportunities for receiving one’s education – the end of enforced age segregation in public places, the end of curfew laws, opposition to the drinking laws, support for the right to bodily autonomy, allowing youths to enter the labor force and receive full remuneration for doing so, the end to gulag camps, freedom of speech and access to information, freedom of religious worship (including the right to dissent from religious worship altogether), and a legal declaration that children and younger adolescents are not the property of their parents.

As Elijah’s campaign manager, I understand that many youth liberationists do not support the Green economic policies, but that is not the issue here. I’m hoping this will simply spur our fellow youth liberationists to encourage their own political party of choice – e.g., the Libertarians (which has often been youth-friendly in the past), Democrats, Republicans, etc. – to likewise adopt youth lib into their national platform. We do not want youth liberation to ever become a partisan issue. Where all of us may differ with agreement on various economic issues (or even certain domestic and foreign policy issues), we can nevertheless unite on the basis of getting all political parties to support and incorporate youth liberation into its mission statement.

This accomplishment from Elijah should be applauded by all youth liberationists, regardless of which political affiliation you stand behind, as it has taken all of us one further step towards bringing youth liberation into mainstream politics in general. Even as we strive to get the Green Party to incorporate youth lib into its national platform, so can non-Green youth liberationists take this as encouragement to work equally hard to get your own political party to do the same!

Watch Elijah give his historic speech about the importance of youth rights (video starts at 1:25:13):

Texas Vote16: Open for Business!

Posted by on July 5th, 2016

NYRA’s newest chapter operates out of North Richland Hills, a suburb of Fort Worth, Texas. The chapter was started by a group of 16 year olds, most of them attending the same high school. Texas Vote16 was established on March 16, 2016. The President, Bryce Hall, had the idea for many years and found supporting friends. For Hall, it was important to start such a group: “I speak for myself and many youth out there as well; We’re not young enough for our voices to be ignored.” Their main goal is to lower the voting age in Texas to 16, then move forward into other states.

Their drive manifests itself in all their efforts. They currently have a petition in their community to allow 16 year olds to vote and are constantly getting signatures through door to door campaigning. Want to sign the petition? Click here!

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They are also currently contacting news media outlets, and are also seeking a representative to sponsor a proposed bill.

The next major event the Texas Chapter is getting ready to host is a Texas Vote16 Rally in North Richland Hills. They’ve been busy preparing getting signs and posters, as well as launching a large outreach campaign to get people on board. If you live in the area, be sure to attend the rally which will either be in late July or early August. Contact Bryce Hall at Texasvote16@gmail.com if you’re interested in getting involved.

NYRA’s mission centers on challenging age discrimination against young people, both in law and in attitudes and supporting the basic freedoms afforded to young Americans in the Bill of Rights.