Meng Introduces Proposed Constitutional Amendment to Lower the Voting Age in America to 16 Years Old
Aug 15, 2018
Congresswoman’s legislation would expand voting rights to young people by providing 16- and 17-year-olds with the right to vote
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) announced today that she has introduced legislation in the House of Representatives that would lower the voting age in America to 16 years old.
Meng’s measure (H.J. Res. 138) seeks to replace the 26th amendment to the United States Constitution with a new amendment that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote. The last time the voting age was changed was when it was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1971.
“I am a firm believer that we should empower our young people and that includes extending the right to vote for 16- and 17-year-olds,” said Meng. “Voting is a serious responsibly. But I believe that our youth are mature enough at these ages to responsibly cast a ballot. Over the past year, we have seen a huge wave of inspirational and passionate activism by students from all across the country. Students are demanding change on issues such as gun safety, climate change, and health care. They deserve to have their voices heard at the ballot box, and to have a say in the change for which they’re vigorously advocating. It’s clear to me that they should be allowed to vote.”
“16- and 17-year-olds are legally permitted to work and they pay federal income tax on their earnings,” Meng added. “They are legally permitted to drive motor vehicles, and if they commit crimes they are tried as adults. I think it is only fair to allow them the right to vote as well.”
Meng noted that cities in 13 states and the District of Columbia have the legal ability to lower the voting age for local elections through charter amendments, and several have already done so. In Takoma Park, Maryland - the first city in America to lower the voting age for local elections to 16 - and in Hyattsville, Maryland, 16- and 17-year-olds are voting at rates that nearly quadruple those of older voters. Internationally, at least 20 countries allow citizens under the age of 18 to vote, and 16-year-olds in the recent Scotland elections had a 75 percent turnout rate - a rate higher than voters three times their age.
Constitutional amendments require passage by two-thirds of the House and Senate, and ratification by three-fourths of the nation’s state legislatures. If enacted, the voting age would be lowered for federal, state and local elections.
Meng’s legislation has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee where it is awaiting further action.