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.
I am opposed to H.J. Res 23. I find that 18 is still a reasonable starting point of the franchise. I sincerely believe/find that I as well as most people and most members of Congress find that 18 while not perfect, is still a reasonably fair/ideal age to start the franchise. I believe that even if this proposal did attract some (handful)cosponsors, while not impossible, it would not become law any time in the near future because it would get the approval of 2/3 of the members of Congress and 3/4 of the number of state legislatures. That is a very tough uphill battle. I hope this proposal/bill does not come to pass any time soon. Believe me when I say that I do not say these things lightly in regards to my opposition to this proposal.
What I meant to say is Meng’s proposal would “need to” get approval of 2/3 of Congress and 3/4 of the number of state legislatures. While not impossible, it’s an uphill battle.
I support this amendment. In fact I would happily lower the voting age much further.
Children are people. They should get to have an impact on the laws that govern them. If kids were allowed to vote the school system (among other things) would not be so oppressive!
Randall, do you have any reasons for your beliefs? Because you haven’t cited any. All you said was that 18 is a reasonable in your view without saying why you think it’s reasonable or why 16 would be a step in the wrong direction.