Some people in New Haven, CT think that the way to make teens more interested in civics and government is to give them the vote.
From the Courant:
Fortunately, there is an easy way to improve young people’s civic literacy: lower the voting age to 16. Giving young people the chance to engage in meaningful political debate outside of the classroom would motivate them to internalize the formal civics education that they receive in class. These young voters would gain a deeper appreciation for government and ultimately help boost our country’s notoriously low voter turnout rates.
With these goals, we started a youth-led campaign to lower the voting age for New Haven‘s local elections. Lowering the voting age would raise the level of civic awareness in our community and enhance political debate. Monday we asked the New Haven Board of Alderman to consider lowering the city’s voting age.
Sixteen is a more logical age to introduce voting rights because, unlike most 18-year-olds, 16-year-olds are stationary. Most 18-year-olds are adapting to new settings in their lives. They’re learning to live independently, adjusting to college life and exploring new communities; often, they find themselves in a different state than the one where they grew up.
Sixteen-year-olds, in contrast, are rooted in their communities and often have a better understanding of the local political issues than do 18-year-olds.
From a constitutional perpsective here, this is kosher. The 26th Amendment merely says that states can’t abridge the right to vote of people over the age of 18. Interestingly, the Constitution has absolutely no affirmative grant of the right to vote. The 15th Amendment says you can’t deny the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude. The 19th Amendment says you can’t deny suffrage based on gender. THe 26th Amendment says you can’t deny it to someone over the age of 18. But these are bans on limitations; not grants of the right to vote, which is effectively a creature of some sort of state, or even pre-existing, law.
The leaders of this movement think 16-year-olds have enough knowledge to vote.
Some will argue that 16-year-olds are not intelligent or experienced enough to participate in elections. But this argument, which was also used to deny voting rights to African Americans and women many years ago, fails to recognize that today’s teenagers have plenty of valuable knowledge and experience.
For example, teens are often active in their communities. They volunteer in retirement homes, hospitals and libraries. They attend local schools and have jobs. Some teens even write public policy op-eds, hold press conferences and meet with lawmakers to discuss legislation. Many adult voters have never done these things, but they still can vote.
Coming soon to New Haven–Mayor Justin Bieber.
H/T Election Law Blog