Posts Tagged ‘suffrage’

Votes for Youth: A Campaign Begins!

May 18, 2012

Across America, a campaign is launching.  It is a struggle for that most precious right of American democracy: the right to vote.  While the vote does not guarantee anything, without it even the most cherished rights can be stripped away without penalty.

For millions of Americans the right to vote is simply a dream.  They watch friends and family cast their ballots wondering why they too can’t make their voices heard.  They have strongly held beliefs about the economy, or the environment or foreign policy. They know as much about politics and government, maybe more, than most voters. Yet they are denied this most basic right.

For millions of Americans, the time to sit by and take their disenfranchisement is over.  Now is the time to act.  These Americans, like their brethren around the globe, are organizing, working, struggling and demanding their own suffrage right:  Votes for Youth!

Votes for Youth is a youth-led movement to enfranchise young people in the United States by lowering the voting age.

High school aged students want the right to vote and need the right to vote to protect their interests and make their voices heard.  Votes for Youth joins the tradition of other youth enfranchisement movements like the UK’s Votes at 16.  Youth have also played a role in current efforts to lower the voting age elsewhere around the globe, including  Scotland, Australia, Canada and Estonia.  Austria has already lowered its voting age to 16, as have Brazil and Ecuador.

The American effort to lower the voting age has been around for years, but largely under the radar.  In 2008, high school student leaders at the National Youth Rights Association produced the first campaign ad for a lower voting age, which aired in Washington D.C.

The 2012 Votes for Youth campaign is a broad effort to expand the youth suffrage movement nationwide, by all means available.  Youth will be protesting, but they will also be blogging, tweeting, writing letters to the editor and contacting local, state and national leaders.  Look for youtube videos by ordinary young people, explaining why they want and need the right to vote.

If you would like to learn more, please go to NYRA Launches Votes for Youth Campaign.  For reason WHY the voting age should be lowered (in case you’re not completely convinced), check out Top 10 Reasons to Lower the Voting Age and the Voting Age Talking Points.

Occupy the Ballot Box: A Brief History of Youth-Led Campaigns to Enfranchise Young People

March 19, 2012

Some of you may think that the movement to empower people under 18 to vote in America is something new, something unheard of, something shocking. Actually, it has a rich history going back at least into the 1990s.

1998

In 1998, the first protests were organized to lower the voting age, as part of the “Operation Register” campaign of YouthSpeak, an internet based youth rights organization founded by a 15 year old high school student. On May 22, 1998, saw protests across America in support of youth suffrage. In Santa Monica, California, the protest was particularly successful:

On Friday, May 22nd, over 25 young people, ages 13 to 17, from local schools gathered in front of the Midnight Special Bookstore on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade to participate in Operation Register, a national campaign to lower the legal voting age. The protest was organized locally by AMP, the Association of Minor Persons, an organization made up of minors and adult supporters committed to promoting the rights, interests and voices of young people in the United States. Protesters carried signs and handed out information, drawing a small crowd of interested adults and young people. At least thirty people stopped by to ask questions.

To learn more about the 1998 “Operation Register” campaign, go to YouthSpeak’s Press Release.

2000

In November 2000, another protest effort occurred, culminating in a protest at the Capital on Election Day. It was covered by Slate Magazine.

Lower the Vote protests were planned for Election Day in 14 states, including California, Texas, Florida, and Massachusetts. [ . . . ] According to its Web page, Lower the Vote is a partnership of various youth rights organizations and independent organizers all committed to lowering the voting age in the United States of America. We believe that the current voting age denies millions of deserving U.S. citizens the fundemental [sic] right to vote and should be lowered.

(See Timothy Noah, “Should the Voting Age be Lowered”, November 8, 2000, Slate Magazine)

2004

In March 2004, Robert Reynolds and the his Berkley High School (California) Progressive Club (later NYRA-Berkley) had a plan for California’s primary election day:

Berkeley High School students who want the right to vote plan to picket a polling place during Tuesday’s California primary.

The school’s Progressive Club has been working to lower the voting age to 16 since late last year.

On Tuesday some members plan to go inside a polling place and request ballots, much like Susan B. Anthony and her fellow suffragists did in Rochester, N.Y., in 1872. Some will picket outside the polling place at Hearst Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way starting at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

(“Berkeley High club campaigns to lower voting age to 16;Students plan to picket polling place during Tuesday’s primary before going to classes” The Daily Review (Hayward, CA) March 1, 2004)

On election day, Reynolds and his group did what voting rights protesters have done throughout history:

[. . .] Robert Reynolds headed for the polls at the local senior center, where he politely requested a ballot from a graying, middle-aged woman. She glanced at his youthful face, and then brusquely turned him away. Undaunted, Reynolds, a 17-year-old high school junior, then exercised a democratic right — staging a demonstration with a handful of schoolmates. They chanted slogans and toted signs; one read, “No Taxation Without Representation.”

(Bobby Caina Calvin, “Californians Consider Granting 14 Year Olds the Right to Vote, Youth Suffrage Effort Sweeps US”, Boston Globe, April 25, 2004).

2008

In the fall of 2008, NYRA’s Southeast Florida Chapter took their efforts to lower the voting age to the next level. They produced a television commercial the first EVER to air in the United States in support of a voting age under 18. Here is another look at that awesome ad, which aired on Washington DC television!

The group also received positive news coverage for their efforts, as the following news piece indicates.

Finally, NYRA-Nanuet a prominent chapter in Upstate New York also received news coverage for its efforts to lower the voting age and empower teens to get involved.

This only the briefest summary of youth-led grassroots voting age efforts over the last 14 years. There are many, many more than this blog can summarize. But remember, the best is yet to come as 2012 will mark the most significant effort yet to to lower the voting age! Join our movement and help make history!

Youth Support Voting Age of 16 in UK: Survey

April 28, 2009

Over in the United Kingdom, where there is serious talk of lowering the voting age, the Youth Citizenship Commission asked for submissions by the general public on whether the voting age should be lowered to sixteen. The results were overwhelmingly positive:

The consultation ran from November 2008 – January 2009, with the government-backed Commission receiving 488 responses. Of this 66% backed lowering the voting age to 16 and the majority backed lowering the voting age to 16 in all UK elections.

For more details on the YCC’s finding, go to its to its Summary Report

This is a very big issue in the UK. The Electoral Reform Society, which has studied the idea extensively, also backs lowering
the voting age to 16.
According to Chief Executive Ken Ritchie, lowering the voting age would allow young people to put the civics training they already receive to a practical use.

Lowering the voting age and improving citizenship education are not mutually exclusive. 16 and 17 year olds are the first generation to have ever studied democracy and citizenship, and their demand for more information should be seen as a positive thing.

But a real gap has emerged between learning and putting that education into practice. We can’t risk separating voting off from all the work that has been done over the years to promote and develop citizenship among young people.

Lowering the voting age to 16 would reflect and support citizenship education and youth participation programmes, linking the formal democratic process to their understanding of citizenship.

The Electoral Reform Society join a host of organizations that have come out in support of lowering the voting age to 16.
These include the British Youth Council, the National Union of Students.

The people are speaking. It’s time that the politicians do their part. Now we have to develop and strengthen this movement in the USA!