Every nation needs to change its constitutional provision over time to match the changing dynamics of the evolving world. Amending constitutions helps correct ineffective laws and respond to citizens’ changing needs and demands. Nowadays, all American citizens above 18 years have a right to vote, with different States having exemptions for felons and individuals with a criminal record. However, history indicates that this has not always been the case. Not all American citizens had equal voting rights, leading to several constitutional amendments to protect all citizens against voting discrimination. This essay discusses Grace Weng’s proposal for the constitutional amendment of lowering the voting age from 18 to 16 years and some of the constitutional amendments protecting citizens against voter discrimination.
Amendments Against Voter Discrimination
Since time, there have been inequalities in the citizens voting rights, such as racial discrimination, ethnicity, gender discrimination, and age limits. The first amendment to protect voters against discrimination is the 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870 (Panetta et al., 2018). The amendment was made to give voting rights to African American men. The 15th amendment declaration on allowing only American men to vote was a blow to women, leading to their struggle for equality in the right to vote as fellow Americans. After many women suffrage movements, rallies, and lobbies against voter discrimination, the 19th amendment allowing women to vote was enacted in 1920.
Despite the two amendments to protect African Americans’ and women’s right to vote, most citizens, especially African Americans, could not participate in the exercise due to poll taxes. Poll taxes include paying a fee to obtain the right to vote. During the colonial period, colonialists paid the price to vote, which continued after the American Revolution and independence (Panetta et al., 2018). The idea of paying for a right to vote was suppressing and unfair to poor individuals who could not afford the fee, particularly African Americans, leading to protests against poll taxes. Therefore, the 24th amendment was ratified in 1964, abolishing the poll taxes, and protecting African Americans’ right to vote since they could vote freely regardless of power or financial restrictions.
The last amendment to protect citizens against voting discrimination is the 26th amendment, which lowered the legal age of voting from 21 years to 18 years. The amendment’s ratification was in 1971 (Panetta et al., 2018), whereby all citizens from 18 years and above had the constitutional right to vote. Since 1971, voting rights have always had controversies regarding age restrictions for voters. Grace Meng’s proposal on amending the constitutional right to vote is the same as the 24 amendments since she requests the lowering of the legal age to vote from 18 years to 16 years.
Grace Mengs Proposal
The right to vote is essential to all American citizens and needs protection from any form of discrimination. All American citizens have a right to vote regardless of ethnicity or gender. However, there is a controversial increase regarding the appropriate age for individuals to vote. Currently, the legal age for an individual to participate in voting is 18 years, leading to numerous proposals to lower the age limit to 16 or 17 years and above for years. Grace Meng, a Washington D.C state representative, presented the legislative proposal in the House of Representatives to lower the citizens voting age to 16 years. According to Meng, young people between sixteen and seventeen years are advocates for many critical issues concerning the state, such as fighting crime, citizens’ safety, health, and climate change; therefore, including them in voting will help express their views.
Federalism refers to a system of governance whereby one state has two governing levels, the state government and the national government. In federal states, the national government controls the major territorial areas, while the state government governs the smaller areas such as cities and local governments. The governing systems in federal states share power and decision-making independently or dependently. For example, all American states have two governing systems where the federal government is in charge of most power in governing the federal States constitutionally. For the amendment to pass, two-thirds of the senate and the white house must approve the proposal. After approval, amendment ratification requires the approval of three-fourths of all state legislatures. Therefore, ratifying the amendment proposal involves more state authority than the federal government; hence, the Mengs bill can pass without the national government’s input.
I support Meng in her proposal to lower the legal voting age to 16 years. Young people between the age of 16-17 possess the ability to think and make responsible decisions. Meng argues that nowadays, more youth are advocates for social responsibility, health and environmental awareness, civil rights, and security, among other critical issues that warrant them to vote to express what they stand for. Lowering the voter’s age to 16 years will also increase voter turnout, which will push governments to serve their citizens more effectively.
America has made several amendments to protect and give all citizens the constitutional right to vote throughout history. Most of the amendments were ratified after many struggling and civil rights movements that were successful in the end. Changing a constitution needs formal modifications which endorse the amended provision. Regarding the proposal to lower the legal age for voting, state governments can pass the bill without the federal government’s support. Although the proposal may not pass, it is important to consider the youth’s opinions regarding politics, civil rights, and emerging social issues.
Panetta, G., Reaney, O., & Lakritz, T. (2020). The 19th Amendment passed 100 years ago today. The evolution of American voting rights in 244 years shows how far we’ve come — and how far we still have to go. Business Insider. Web.