The National Youth Rights Association (NYRA) strongly endorses Senate Bill 2562 and Assembly Bill A330, which would amend the state constitution by lowering the voting age from 18 years old to 16 years old.
We believe lowering the voting age will be good for young people, good for New York, and good for democracy as a whole. Lowering the voting age can help increase the diversity of the electorate, ensuring that the views and concerns of younger generations are adequately represented in political decision-making. We urge lawmakers to support or pursue any and all legislation that would increase representation by giving 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote.
Our nation is based upon the principle of consent of the governed. 16 year olds are very much governed by our laws; they pay taxes, can be charged as adults for crimes, and are affected by every government decision for decades longer than older voters. Yet without the right to vote, youth have no ability to consent to these laws. This is as unjust now as it was when the concept of consent of the governed was written into the Declaration of Independence.
NYRA has fought to correct this injustice since we were founded in 1998. We have campaigned to lower the voting age from coast to coast, including in New York. In 2005, NYRA-NYC endorsed citywide legislation that would lower the voting age from 18 to 16 in local NYC elections. We supported similar legislation in 2011, and wrote a Memorandum of Support of A5959/S3995, which would have allowed 16 and 17 year olds to be appointed to community boards.
New York State has long been a leader in progressive politics, and has always been a driving force for change throughout the history of our country. Often, New Yorkers are ahead of the curve when it comes to movements for social justice. We believe that the people of NY are ready to lead once again. Congresswoman Grace Meng of New York’s 6th District has re-introduced legislation to lower the voting age federally. Right now, New York has the opportunity to be the first state in the country to officially support youth suffrage.
Studies have shown that voting is a habit-forming behavior, and that a lower voting age increases participation amongst youth and their parents. If young people start voting at an earlier age, they are more likely to become lifelong voters, contributing to a healthier and more robust democracy. Voter turnout is up, teens attend and participate in public meetings and debates, and young people feel more included in the communities they call home. Young people are ready, capable and interested in voting. Youth-led movements demonstrate the passion, commitment, and insight that young people bring to the table when they are given the opportunity to engage in political discourse.
We must also emphasize the importance of strengthening civic education in schools to equip young people with the knowledge and skills necessary to participate effectively in the democratic process. Lowering the voting age can go hand-in-hand with improving civic education, fostering a more informed and engaged electorate.
NYRA calls upon New York’s representatives to support legislation that would make this a reality. Together, we can create a more inclusive, dynamic, and vibrant democracy. We call upon you to be part of this historic moment by supporting Senate Bill 2562 and Assembly Bill A330, as well as any citywide or municipal legislation which seeks to do the same. By supporting youth suffrage, we pave the way for a brighter and more equitable future for Gen Z, and all future generations.