Ahead of 50th Anniversary of 26th Amendment, Pappas Calls for Action to Protect Youth Voting Rights

June 30, 2021
Press Release
Pappas’s legislation would fulfill the promise of the 26th amendment by extending crucial protections to voters discriminated against based on age

Ahead of the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the 26th Amendment tomorrow, Congressman Chris Pappas called for action to protect youth voting rights by passing his Protect The Youth Vote Act. Congressman Pappas first introduced the Protect the Youth Vote Act in 2020, and re-introduced his legislation in February alongside Representatives Joe Neguse (CO-02), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Grace Meng (NY-06), and Stephanie Murphy (FL-07).

“The ratification of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment was a critical step forward in ensuring all Americans can make their voices heard at the ballot box,” said Congressman Pappas. “Today in too many places across the country the right to vote is under attack. It’s time to stand against systemic efforts to disenfranchise young voters and pass legislation that will fulfill the promise of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment. By providing stronger oversight through the Department of Justice and increasing election transparency we can encourage the next generation to participate in our democracy and ensure our government is truly of, by, and for the people.”

Ratified on July 1st, 1971, the Twenty-Sixth Amendmentsent a strong message across our nation that all Americans 18 and over, especially young Americans, deserved to have a voice in the electoral process. The Amendment was ratified to bring young people into our democratic process and promote broad civic engagement. In addition to ensuring “[t]he right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age,” the Twenty-Sixth Amendment also grants Congress the power to enforce the amendment through appropriate legislation. The Protect the Youth Vote Act is a critical step to strengthen federal protections guaranteed by the Twenty-Sixth Amendment and protect youth voting rights nationwide.

In recent years, states have created arbitrary barriers to make youth voting more difficult, including burdensome voter ID and proof of residency requirements, inconvenient or limited polling sites, and intentional intimidation and confusion caused by election officials. According to the Brennan Center, as of May 14, 2021, legislators in 48 states have introduced over 389 bills this year alone that would restrict access to the ballot, especially for young people and young voters of color. These efforts have not only undercut participation in our democracy in the short term, but also serve to undermine the long-term health of our democracy by discouraging the development of a culture of democratic engagement among young people. 

The Protect the Youth Vote Act is comprehensive legislation that will safeguard the rights of young Americans by increasing transparency and more clearly defining actions that violate the Twenty-Sixth Amendment. This legislation also provides the Attorney General and voters with the legal tools to address and prevent actions that would undermine or abridge the right to vote on the basis of age. 

 Specifically, the Protect the Youth Vote Act would:

  • Outline specific practices that violate the Twenty-Sixth Amendment.
  • Provide authority for courts to retain jurisdiction in areas where they have found that a State or jurisdiction violated the twenty-sixth amendment.
  • Allow voters or the Attorney General to receive preventative relief against actions that violate the Twenty-Sixth Amendment.
  • Require transparency on any violations of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment and reasonable public notice for voting changes.
  • Allow the Attorney General authority to request federal observers where there is a serious threat of youth voter suppression.

Pappas’s legislation has been endorsed by Let America Vote / End Citizens United, NextGen America, the Andrew Goodman Foundation, Common Cause, Young Invincibles, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the League of Conservation Voters, HeadCount, and Generation Vote.

The full text of the bill can be found here.