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.
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.
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)
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).
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!