Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) wants younger people to have a say in federal elections.
On Wednesday, Pressley introduced an amendment to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 years old in federal elections. The legislation would allow minors to vote for Congress and for President as soon as the 2020 elections.
The amendment ― the freshman congresswoman’s first to be introduced on the House floor ― would be attached to the H.R. 1 legislation expected to be debated in the House of Representatives this week. That bill aims to reform campaign finance and expand voting rights.
“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 in a statement. “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 … should have a say in who represents them,” she added.
Young people have often been at the front lines of major social change, such as during the civil rights movement. In the past couple years, youths have led significant activist efforts, from young Black Lives Matter organizers and students in Parkland, Florida, calling for gun reform to young people challenging lawmakers and even suing the government over climate change.
In the District of Columbia last year, legislation failed to move forward that would have made it the first jurisdiction to lower the voting age to 16 for federal elections. In some states, like Massachusetts, 16- and 17-year-olds can pre-register to vote so they can cast a ballot in federal elections as soon as their 18th birthday. And in some smaller cities, such as Hyattsville, Maryland, minors can vote in local elections; in Berkeley, California, they can vote in school board elections.
Pressley’s amendment, co-sponsored by Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), was approved by the House Rules Committee on Tuesday and could be on the House floor Thursday for debate, per her team. It’s unclear how much support the proposal will gain from other House members.