Critics are slamming U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s push to lower the voting age from 18 years old to 16, calling it a “terrible idea.”
“It’s simply wrong,” MassGOP chairman Jim Lyons told the Herald. “Almost all 16-year-olds I know I don’t believe should have the privilege or the authority to vote. They simply haven’t matured to the level that they can make those types of decisions.”
Lyons added that Democrats have prioritized raising various age requirements “in just about everything,” including for smoking, using tanning beds and the age for juvenile crimes.
When asked about the proposal Wednesday, Gov. Charlie Baker said, “I did raise three teenagers, and based on that I’d be pretty dubious about lowering it to 16.”
Pressley proposed her first amendment as a congresswoman during a meeting of the House Committee on Rules Tuesday. The measure would lower the federal election voting age by two years; however, state and local races would remain the same.
“Across this nation, young people are leading the way — from gun violence, to climate change, to the future of work — they are organizing, mobilizing, and calling us to action,” Pressley said. “Our young people are at the forefront of some of the most existential crises facing our communities and our society at large. I believe that those who will inherit the nation we design here in Congress by virtue of our policies and authority should have a say in who represents them.”
Some states, including Massachusetts, already allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote so they can participate in the federal election process when they turn 18. Since August 2016, 61,126 teens have submitted pre-registration forms, according to Secretary of State William Galvin’s office.
“Allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote may be another way to bring young people into the process,” Galvin said. “Given the many different proposals in cities and towns in Massachusetts and around the country aimed at lowering the voting age, it is a good idea to have this debate at the federal level, so that we can have a uniform system.”
Both Mary Connaughton, a director at the Pioneer Institute, and Mary Lou Daxland, president of the Massachusetts Republican Assembly, pointed to a lack of curriculum in the school systems to teach students about the workings of government.
“It seems reckless and educationally irresponsible to allow underage students to vote when they haven’t even been instructed in the basics of U.S. history, civics, or the facts of our democracy,” Connaughton said.
Daxland added, “16-year-olds today don’t even know how the government works in Washington. How are they going to be able to vote if they don’t even know how government works?”
Carol Rose, executive director of American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said it is important to “explore every avenue” to expand access to the ballot and make it easier for people to vote.
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