In November of this year, San Francisco may become the first major city in the United States to lower the voting age in municipal elections to 16.
The question is on the ballot there for the second time. Four years ago, the procedure failed 48%, but this time Its supporters are optimistic It will pass.
If so, could this be a sign of things to come for the nation? Most Generation Z supporters (people born between 1996 and 2010) think the 16-17 year old vote may be the case.
The argument for lowering the voting age
Supporters of the measure point out Several countries And a handful of smaller US cities have lowered the voting age to 16. One, Tacoma Park, Maryland, has allowed 16-year-olds to vote in municipal elections since 2013 and found that younger voters are preparing to vote at higher rates than older voters.
Supporters of Generation Z to lower the voting age Also argue They are already seen as adults in the criminal justice system, that the minimum age for sexual approval is 16 in most states, and that many Gen Zers work and pay taxes. Moreover, they assert that they are more socially and politically engaged than previous generations of that age.
The argument against lowering the voting age
Of course, not everyone agrees that this is a good idea.
Some opponents argue that people aged 16 and 17 are ineligible to make rational decisions. US Rep. Mark E. Green (R-Tennessee), for example, said, “We do not allow a 16-year-old to buy beer, and the decision is due to his ability to think about that age.”
Others say that despite General Zers’ claims to the contrary, those between the ages of 16 and 17 are not fully informed and educated. They also contest General Zers’ assertion that they have enough “skin in the game” to deserve the vote. And then there are Republicans who believe that the move to lower the voting age is just a blueprint for the Democrats to gain more power because 16- and 17-year-olds tend to be more liberal than the elderly.
Right now, the forces pushing for lower voting age face a difficult task. Even the majority of Democrats oppose lowering the voting age.
Nevertheless, it appears to be an idea gaining some traction. 17 states now allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries if they are to turn 18 by the general election, and more than half of them have taken this step in the past decade.
Although unsuccessful, legislative efforts to lower the voting age to 16 have recently appeared at the national level as well. In 2018, US Representative Grace Ming (Democrat, New York) introduced a bill to do so, and last year Representative Ayanna Presley (Democrat from Massachusetts) introduced a bill that garnered the support of more than 100 Democratic House of Representatives.
However, the movement to drop the voting age to 16 nationwide faces formidable obstacles. The biggest of them is that he will need a file Constitutional amendment, Which requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate just to get the ball.
After the proposed amendment is published in the Federal Register, it will be sent to the governor of each state. The governor then either submits it to the legislature or to the state assembly, depending on what Congress determines. After that, three-quarters of the states, 38 of them, must ratify it before it becomes part of the Constitution.
The measure was the last time the United States lowered the voting age – from 21 to 18 – in 1971. At the time, 18-year-old voting supporters argued that if an 18-year-old could be recruited into the military and serve in Vietnam, it should Be able to vote. Congress voted overwhelmingly in support of the 26th Amendment, and on July 1 of that year, North Carolina became the 38th state to ratify it.
Patience is a virtue
Today Gen Zers argue that they, like Boomers 50 years ago, deserve a vote. They say they are realistic about the challenge they face which is why they started on a small scale. Their primary goal is to lower the voting age for municipal elections, and in many states this means persuading legislatures to pass laws that allow cities to do so.
They hope to gain momentum over time for a constitutional amendment to grant voting rights to those aged 16 and 17.
impossible? At one point, not many decades ago, lowering the voting age to 18 seemed impossible, too.