Ayanna Pressley Serious About Lowering Voting Age To 16, But U.S. House Isn’t, For Now

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2019/03/08/ayanna-pressley-serious-about-lowering-voting-age-to-16-but-u-s-house-isnt-for-now/

The U.S. House of Representatives has rejected a measure proposed by U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Dorchester) to lower the voting age in elections for federal office to 16.

On Thursday night the House voted 126-305 on the amendment, Pressley’s first as a member of Congress.

“Some have questioned the maturity of our youth. I don’t,” Pressley said on the House floor before the vote, according to video provided by C-Span. “A 16-year-old in 2019 possesses a wisdom and maturity that comes from 2019 challenges, hardships, and threats.”

An ally, U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-New York), pointed out that high school students have been getting more active in political matters in recent years.

“Across the country, these students are getting involved. They are marching. They are advocating for their generation’s future. And they are asserting their position in our society,” Meng said, adding that she proposed an amendment to the federal constitution last year to lower the voting age in local, state, and federal elections to 16.

Republicans objected to the amendment partly on constitutional grounds. U.S. Representative Rodney Davis (R-Illinois) noted that when the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 nearly 48 years ago, it was done through a constitutional amendment, not an amendment to a bill.

It was accomplished by the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was ratified in 1971. It states:  “The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.”

At the time, a leading argument for it was that 18-year-old men were being drafted and sent to Vietnam, so they ought to be allowed to vote in the elections that choose politicians who make such decisions.

Young people skew heavily liberal and Democratic, and Davis questioned whether Democrats are trying to improve access to democracy or just improve their chances in future elections.

“… I’m of the opinion that we shouldn’t arbitrarily lower the voting age just because right now I believe Democrats think they’ll gain more votes,” Davis said.

U.S. Representative Mark Green (R-Tennessee) noted that the drinking age in America is 21.

“We don’t allow a 16-year-old to buy a beer, and the decision-making is because of their ability to reason at that age. That’s why we moved their ability to buy a simple beer to age 21. And now the other side wants to grant a 16-year-old the ability to decide the future of the country,” Green said. “I think this is foolish.”

Pressley swept aside the constitutional argument without addressing it directly.

“Although a constitutional amendment is one approach, I do think that we have a mandate from this electorate as a Congress to be bold, and this is the opportunity to do exactly that, and we should be acting,” Pressley said. “…“I think that we should be cultivating that relationship with young people and their government and their participation as early as possible.”

On Tuesday night Pressley appeared before the House Campaign Finance, Voting Rights, and Ethics Committee to stump for the measure, which is an amendment to House of Representatives 1, a bill that seeks to force the president and vice president to release 10 years of tax returns among sweeping changes in federal campaign finance law.

“Throughout my life I have abided by the mantra we should never make assumptions about who desires to have a stakehold in and a seat at the table of our democracy,” Pressley said Tuesday night, March 5. “I do believe that if my amendment is enacted that it will serve to reengage, re-enfranchise, and recognize those in our democracy that are too often ignored, left out, and left behind. I am here tonight, however, because across this nation, young people are leading the way, which has been the case for every social movement throughout our history.”

Only one Republican voted for Pressley’s amendment, which got a small majority of Democrats, 125-108.