Last week, U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced a resolution proposing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would lower the voting age to sixteen throughout the country. This resolution (H.J.Res.138) would replace the Twenty-sixth Amendment, which prevents states from having a voting age higher than 18, with the following language: “The right of citizens of the United States, who are sixteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.” As a Constitutional amendment, the proposal would need to be approved by two-thirds of the U.S. House and Senate and three-fourths of the states. If passed, this would effectively result in allowing individuals aged sixteen and seventeen to register and vote in all federal, state and local primaries and elections.
While Meng’s resolution has no co-sponsors yet, there have been several current U.S. Representatives that have expressed support for lowering the voting age in the past. This list includes Keith Ellison (D-MN), Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
Local and state campaigns to lower the voting age
Some states, notably Maryland, make it easy for towns to change the voting requirements for local elections, and the Maryland cities of Takoma Park, Hyattsville, Greenbelt, and Riverdale Park have already lowered their voting age to 16. Berkeley, CA has a voting age of 16 for school board elections. However, in other states is is more difficult. In the last twenty years, NYRA chapters have had supported local and statewide campaigns nearly two dozen states. As a result of many of those campaigns, approximately 50 separate bills and resolutions have been introduced.
Currently, there are several NYRA chapters working on lowering the voting age at the state and local levels. Brentley Sandlin, 16, from the Memphis Youth Union – a NYRA chapter – has been working for the past two and a half years to extend voting rights to sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds. In response Rep. Meng’s resolution she said,
“This bill helps to show that our work is not part of a radical notion, but rather a piece of a much larger national and international movement taking place to end the ongoing disenfranchisement of youth.”
Mahsiah Imes, 17, NYRA Board Member has also been working on lowering the voting age for two years was happy that lowering the voting age has entered into the national conversation this year.
“Decisions made on the national level where foreign policy, healthcare and criminal justice reform are very important to young people who will be around to see the outcome of how those policies in the future.”
There are current bills in legislatures in Massachusetts, New York, and Washington D.C. California and Virginia also saw legislation to lower the voting age proposed at the state level last year and campaigns are continuing in those states as well.