Democrats Point to Student Gun-Control Activists As a Reason to Lower Voting Age to 16

Susan Jones | March 6, 2019 | 7:57am EST
Font Size
Ayanna Pressley, formerly a Boston City Councilwoman, won a House seat last November. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

( - H.R. 1, a massive voting rights/election security/campaign finance/ethics bill now making its way through the House of Representatives, would make "significant changes to the operation of federal elections by states," according to a summary produced by the Congressional Budget Office.

The bill does not allow 16-year-olds to vote, but Democrats are offering amendments that would do just that.

Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) introduced their amendments Tuesday night before the House Rules Committee. Both lawmakers pointed to the activism of young gun control advocates as one of the reasons for lowering the voting age:


"I am here tonight...because across this nation, young people are leading the way, which has been the case for every social movement throughout our history," Rep. Pressley told the Rules Committee:

"They are organizing and mobilizing and calling us to action, making plain the high stakes the next generation faces -- from gun violence, to climate change, to the future of work, to the solvency of Social Security."

Pressley pointed to one of her young constituents who "has been at the forefront of the March for Our Lives Movement to stem the tide of gun violence."

"It is young people...who march, organize, and remind us daily in the halls of this institution what's at stake and just how high those stakes are," Pressley said.

Rep. Meng, a cosponsor of Pressley's amendment, also pointed to student gun control activists in making her argument for 16-year-olds to vote:

"It is only right and fair to allow 16- and 17-year-olds a voice in our democracy," Meng said.

"Throughout our nation's history, from the Vietnam War-era movements that sparked the 26th Amendment, to the Parkland students who reignited the gun violence prevention movement, the power of youth activism has profoundly impacted social and political movements in the United States, and it's time their votes count, too," Meng said.

Both Pressley and Meng argued that 16-year-olds are permitted to drive cars, get jobs, and pay taxes, and therefore, they should be permitted to vote.

Meng introduced two additional amendments, to "ensure greater cultural competency with respect to poll worker training."

"The first of these two amendments would ensure that poll workers' training manuals include strategies to assist voters in culturally competent manners, paying special attention to voters with diverse needs and backgrounds, including voters who have limited English proficiency," Meng said.

Meng's other amendment would require a report on what kind of cultural competency training was given to poll workers.

Democrats have titled H.R.1 as the "For the People Act of 2019." Speaking broadly, it would erode state control of elections and relax voter registration and voting day procedures. Congressional Republicans have dubbed the bill "The Democrat Politician Protection Act."

Among its many provisions, the bill would require states to:

-- offer online voter registration and automatic voter registration through state agency records (such as enrollment in colleges or universities);

-- expand early voting opportunities and permit unrestricted voting by mail;

-- offer same-day voter registration on election days;

-- prohibit "hindering, interfering with, or preventing voter registration";

-- use voting systems that produce individual and auditable paper ballots;

-- make Election Day a legal public holiday for federal employees; (The bill encourages private employers to give workers the day off.)

-- allow people to vote in person without identification if they sign a sworn written statement attesting that they are who they say they are and that they are eligible to vote.

Two other sections deal with campaign finance and ethics.

H.R. 1 may pass the House, but it is unlikely to become law with Republicans in control of the Senate and the presidency. It does show how Democrats would -- or perhaps someday will -- change voting procedures.

mrc merch