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Constitutional Right to Vote Introduced in Congress and Backed in Maryland City

Released May 14, 2013

Takoma Park, Maryland Adopts "Promote Our Vote” Resolution and Becomes First U.S. City to Lower the Voting Age to 16

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 14, 2013
Contact: Elizabeth Hudler , Email: hudler [ at] fairvote [dot] org, Phone: (301) 270-4616

U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Keith Ellison (D-MN)  announced on May 13th that they will introduce legislation this week to explicitly guarantee the right to vote in the Constitution. The Pocan-Ellison Right to Vote Amendment would amend the Constitution to provide all Americans the affirmative right to vote and empower Congress to protect this right.

This national legislation may soon be accompanied by local actions in its spirit, as called for by
FairVote’s new initiative Promote Our Vote (PromoteOurVote.com). In Takoma Park (MD), the city council last night unanimously adopted a resolution in support of a right to vote in the Constitution and the creation of a task force to suggest ways to boost voter participation. As part of its commitment to the right to vote, the council also adopted a charter amendment by a 6-1 vote that makes Takoma Park the first city in the United States to extend voting rights to its residents after they turn 16.

"The right to vote is the foundation of any democracy,” commented
FairVote’s Executive Director Rob Richie. “Adding an affirmative right to vote to the U.S. Constitution is the best way to guarantee that the government, whether at the federal, state, or local level, cannot infringe upon our individual right to vote. Building support for this amendment offers an opportunity to inspire a 21st century suffrage movement where Americans come together to protect voting rights, promote voter participation and debate suffrage expansion. Takoma Park’s actions are exactly what is needed at a time when city election turnout can drop to single digit rates, as was the case in the Texas cities of Amarillo and San Antonio.”

“The right to vote is too important to be left unprotected,” said Congressman Pocan about his amendment proposal. “At a time when there are far too many efforts to disenfranchise Americans, a voting rights amendment would positively affirm our founding principle that our country is at its strongest when everyone participates. As the world’s leading democracy, we must demand of ourselves what we demand of others—a guaranteed right to vote for all.”

Congressman Ellison added, “Americans’ ability to elect their leaders is a backbone of our democracy and our most fundamental right. Even though the right to vote is the most-mentioned right in the Constitution, legislatures across the country have been trying to deny that right to millions of Americans, including in my home state of Minnesota. It’s time we made it clear once and for all: every citizen in the United States has a fundamental right to vote.”

Takoma
Park City Councilmember Tim Male introduced the right to vote resolution and led the effort to lower the voting age. He explained how the right to vote resolution created an environment where the idea of a lower voting age – one that several of his colleagues initially treated with skepticism – was taken seriously. “This small change to allow 16 and 17-year olds to vote has one profound impact.  Whenever a 16- or 17-year old approaches an elected official about an important issue they will get the same respect and responsiveness as any other potential voter.  Our city's teens inspired me through this process, through stories of extensive community service, the teenage advocates who came and spoke on behalf of peers and their thoughtful, heartwarming and educational testimony to the City Council.  I will be honored to stand in line with them on Election Day.”

The proposal to extend voting rights to people after they turn 16 is an extension of the widespread practice in many states of having 17-year-
olds vote in primaries if they will be 18 by the general election. Evidence from nations like Austria that have established a voting age of 16 demonstrates that a lower voting age will almost certainly increase turnout of young people in the short-term and over time. These studies also show that voters at age 16 exercise suffrage rights as responsibly as older voters.  Many people at 16 and 17 have lived in their communities for years and are often taking high school government classes. That combination results in more people at this age taking advantage of their first opportunity to vote than older teens who are more likely to have left high school and often their childhood community. 

FairVote’s
Rob Richie commented, “Takoma Park has shown great leadership with this action. While new to many Americans, extending voting rights to people after they turn 16 is just commonsense upon close inspection. I suspect the idea will spread quickly.” Other backers of Takoma Park’s new voting age include local State Senator and Washington College of Law Professor Jamie Raskin, and Peter Levine, Director of the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE), the nation’s leading authority on youth voting and civic education.

For more information, please contact Elizabeth Hudler at (301) 270-4616 | [email protected]

RESOURCES


TEXT OF POCAN-ELLISON RIGHT TO VOTE AMENDMENT

SECTION 1: Every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.

SECTION 2: Congress shall have the power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation