We at the Memphis Youth Union (MemYU) have decided to develop our local campaign to state. Our goal? Extension of voting rights to sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds in local and state elections in Tennessee!
We are a NYRA chapter that consists of seven high-school-aged youth community organizers and one adult ally working with a local non-profit, BRIDGES USA, Inc. We first recognized the importance of voting rights for youth in 2015, when we realized the modern-day “taxation without representation” that has been affecting our nation. MemYU is also focused on both cultural and policy change – not only do we intend to change legislation, we have developed a campaign that gives vulnerable insights to the lives of Memphis youth, called YoMemphis! (Youth of Memphis!). We are currently working on building a coalition within Tennessee to strengthen the support and initiative around the campaign through a national convening.
In her recent article entitled The Case for Lowering the Voting Age to 16, MemYU member Brentley Sandlin, discusses the three cities in the United States that have already been successful in extending voting rights (Greenbelt, MD; Takoma Park, MD; and Hyattsville, MD). She points out that:
Youths are much more serious and responsible than dominant narratives give us credit for… [although] the fact remains that teens are taxed, yet we have no voice in how our money is spent within our own communities.
As we have continued to bring more attention to our cause, our campaign has growin in strength, and we hope to bring a proposed draft of legislation to Tennessee Congress beginning of 2019.