Rep. Pressley's Floor Remarks on Lowering the Voting Age

March 7, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON  – Today on the floor of the House of Representatives Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) introduced an amendment to H.R. 1, the For The People Act. The Congresswoman’s amendment would lower the federal election voting age from 18-years-old to 16-years-old.  In some states, including Massachusetts, 16- and 17-year-olds can pre-register to vote so that upon their 18th birthday, they can participate in the federal election process. Congresswoman Pressley’s amendment would expand these efforts so that people as young as 16-years-old can elect members of Congress and the President of the United States.

 

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Mrs. Chairwoman. I rise today in support of my amendment to H.R. 1, the For the People Act.

H.R. 1 is bold, transformative legislation which seeks to restore the people’s faith that the American government works for the public interest, not special interests. We were sent to Washington with a sacred task: to do everything in our power to reinstate Americans’ hope and faith in our democracy.

My amendment to H.R. 1 strikes at one of the fundamental goals of this legislation by ensuring that those who have a stake in our democracy will also have a say in our democracy.  By lowering the voting age from eighteen to sixteen years of age, my amendment would allow young people to have a say in our federal elections, to help shape and inform the policies that will set the course for the future.

From gun violence, to immigration reform, to climate change, to the future of work - our young people are organizing, mobilizing and calling us to action. They are at the forefront of social and legislative movements and have earned inclusion in our democracy. 

Beginning at the age of sixteen, young people are contributing to both the labor force and their local economies by paying income taxes, and yet they are deprived of the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.

In this country, we affirm that when a person walks in to the voting booth and pulls that lever, there is no meritocracy or hierarchy. The booth is the equalizer. Despite many reasons in our lives for feeling invisible and small, my mother reminded me each election day, as a super-voter, that on this day, we were powerful.  I believed her then and I believe her now. When we step into that voting booth, we bring the totality of our lived experiences. The vote we cast absorbs and honors it all. 

Some have questioned the maturity of our youth. I don’t.

A sixteen-year-old in 2019 possesses a wisdom and a maturity that comes from 2019 challenges, hardships, and threats.

A sixteen-year-old will bring with them the 2019 fears that their father’s insulin will run out before the next paycheck.

A seventeen-year-old will bring with them the 2019 hopes to be the first in their family to earn a college degree.

A sixteen-year-old will bring with them the 2019 lessons they learned picking up shifts waiting tables to support their family while their mother was deployed.

A seventeen-year-old will bring with them a 2019 solemn vow to honor the lives of their classmates stolen by a gunman.

And now is the time for us to demonstrate 2019 courage that matches the challenges of the modern-day sixteen and seventeen year old. 

I would like to thank my colleagues, Representatives Meng and Schakowsky, for their leadership on this issue and for cosponsoring my amendment; and the Rules Committee under the leadership of Chairman McGovern for bringing my amendment to the House floor for consideration.

I respectfully request my colleagues to support this amendment.

And with that, I would like to yield two minutes to the gentlelady from New York.

 

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