This is a transcript of a speech I gave to the Broward County Commission in support of lowering the voting age. The Commission is now supporting a resolution to lower the voting age to sixteen. Watch video here.

The Fight for Youth Suffrage
By Elijah Manley

Dear Broward County Board of County Commissioners,

Good Morning, My name is Elijah Manley. I’m going to read to you a letter, from the Youth of Broward County.

Dear Board, throughout the history of our great country, masses, groups, and demographics have fought for their civil rights – most notably suffrage.
From the dawn of slavery, to the Voting Rights Act of 1965;
From involuntary servitude, to the 19th amendment in the 1920s;
From oppression, to the passage of the 26th amendment.
Until today; the passage of a series of lowering the voting age restrictions locally.

And for so long, the fighters were told that they shouldn’t vote; that they don’t have the same equal rights and protections under the law; that they are not smart and intelligent enough to vote; Remember those words from the 1960s? Well today, we’re doing just that – by denying a group of people the right to suffrage and equal rights under the law, because of their age.

Oppression. Discrimination. Ageism. The cries of those who beg for the vote; the bellowing howls of those that stand on the street screaming for suffrage. It is us! America’s youth. Standing here, asking, begging, for suffrage, for the vote.

Mr. Chair, or Mayor, a group of Americans today, are asking for the vote as all others have historically. The dark shadows of the oppressors will dusk up against us. It will rise, and it will oppose the civil rights of young people – the youth rights. Just as Jim Crow did right here in the south. This is a movement. A cry from the voices of millions of oppressed youth; from the restrained, the unheard, the disenfranchised, the ignored.

For one second–place yourself in the shoes of a slave.
The cloudy skies, a lost nation, a nation on the verge of falling.
Then that day came; That the slave was free. Emancipation!
Their long cry was heard. I can only imagine how that feels.
Today, America’s youth cry for emancipation through suffrage, at sixteen.

I’m formally asking the county commission to, that if it is really about action, to entertain a motion through whatever procedure necessary; to lower the voting age to sixteen in Broward County only, for municipal and county elections. Because as President Lyndon B. Johnson said – “A man without a vote, is a man without protection.” Stand up, and if you’re really about action, violate the state law for the common good, and for the civil equal rights and equal protection under the law that the constitution guarantees to everyone regardless of their age.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.