On 18 March 2019, the website PatriotPulse.net published an article under the headline “Nancy Pelosi just announced a new scheme to take down Donald Trump in 2020.” That “scheme,” according to PatriotPulse.net, was lowering the minimum voting age for federal elections from 18 to 16:
The Democrat Party is still reeling over their 2016 loss.
They can’t believe crooked Hillary took a beating at the ballot box.
So now they’ve unveiled a new scheme to take down Donald Trump in 2020.
Nancy Pelosi just came out in favor of lowering the voting age to 16.
In a press conference, Pelosi spoke of “capturing” kids in high school “when they’re interested in all of this.”
Her comments are in connection to the so-called “For The People Act,” which would overhaul U.S. election and campaign finance laws, if passed.
The headline was grossly misleading, as Pelosi had announced no “scheme” of any type, much less one intended to “take down Donald Trump in 2020.” The House Speaker simply said that although she did not officially support lowering the minimum voting age to 16, she had long held the personal view that it should be:
Around the same time, U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts) had sponsored an amendment to H.R. 1 (also known as the For the People Act), a sweeping, Democrat-led anti-corruption bill. Pressley’s amendment would have lowered the minimum voting age from 18 to 16 for the 2020 federal election, but it did not pass, garnering only 126 “yes” votes (all but one from Democrats) against 305 “no” votes from both Republicans and Democrats.
The language of the amendment made no mention of any particular person or office, offering only the proposal that “A State may not refuse to permit an individual to register to vote or vote in an election for Federal office held in the State on the grounds of the individual’s age if the individual will be at least 16 years of age on the date of the election.”
Even as the amendment failed to pass, its backers called it a victory in terms of growing support. In an 8 March 2019 press release, Vote16USA Campaign Manager Brandon Klugman declared, “Only a couple years ago, just one Member of Congress expressing interest in 16-year-old voting was a huge deal, so to see 126 members vote yes on Rep. Pressley’s amendment is a thrilling sign of how far we’ve come in a short time, and a testament to the fact that support for this issue consistently increases as decision makers are educated about it. We are excited to build on this momentum and we’re optimistic that one day 16-year-old voting will be the norm in the United States.”
Though a movement is clearly afoot to lower the voting age for all citizens, activists told us it isn’t about any particular politician or party.
Pooja Patel, 18, of Chicago, and Vikiana Petit-Homme, 17, of Boston, are activists with Vote16USA, an initiative by the non-partisan, non-profit civic organization Generation Citizen. The two said the movement is aimed at including young people in the democratic process to ensure they become more active civically and have the ability to weigh in on policies that will affect them long into the future. They also said research indicates teens who are active civically also inspire older friends and relatives to get out the vote.
Patel also said some research showed that civic engagement in young people started a lifelong pattern of remaining an active voter, and that the current generation of teenagers are extremely interested in politics. “It’ll just cultivate generations and generations of people that are active in our democracy,” she told us by phone. “There’s no actual study or empirical data that support the claim young people will specifically vote for one party or another. At the same time, why would we want to disenfranchise people based on how we perceive they’re going to vote?” (Some data do suggest younger voters tend to skew more Democratic and independent than Republican.)
Legislative support for lowering federal voting age at the moment does come primarily from Democratic lawmakers, but it’s not a “new scheme.” A bill to lower the voting age in Washington, D.C. to 16 for presidential elections was narrowly defeated in November 2018. And several American cities, including Greenbelt, Tacoma Park, and Hyattsville all in the state of Maryland, have already lowered the voting age for local elections, while Oregon is considering doing the same at the state level.