Pappas, Neguse, Gallego, Meng and Murphy Introduce Legislation to Stop Disenfranchisement of Young People

February 25, 2021
Press Release
This landmark legislation to strengthen youth voter protections is introduced on 50th Anniversary of the ratification of the Twenty-sixth Amendment

Washington, D.C.- Today Representatives Chris Pappas (NH-01), Joe Neguse (CO-02), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Grace Meng (NY-06), and Stephanie Murphy (FL-07) re-introduced the Protect the Youth Vote Act to block the systematic efforts across the country to suppress the voices of young Americans. 

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. 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, more clearly defining actions that violate the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which was ratified to bring young people into our democratic process and promote broad civic engagement. 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. 

“At a time where the integrity of our democratic institutions are under attack, it is critical that we protect the rights of our citizens and ensure that every American knows their voice can be heard at the ballot box,” said Rep. Chris Pappas. “I am proud to introduce legislation that safeguards the rights of young American voters by providing the federal protections necessary to uphold the Twenty-Sixth Amendment. The Protect the Youth Vote Act will make sure that young Americans are able to fully participate in our democracy and further ensure that our government is truly of, by, and for the people.”

“Our democracy is strongest when everyone has the opportunity to participate,” said Rep. Neguse. “I’m proud to work with Congressman Pappas and my colleagues to safeguard the voting rights of young Americans, increase transparency and block harmful youth voter suppression tactics. I have long been dedicated to the work of ensuring access and opportunity for the next generation to participate in our democracy, this bill is an important step in engaging young people in the political process and safeguarding voting rights.” 

“Our voting rights are under attack across the country, with many state legislatures emboldened by recent efforts by some to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Efforts to disenfranchise youth voters are a central part of the voter suppression strategy we are seeing across the country and, if successful, those efforts will have devastating effects for decades to come,” said Rep. Gallego. “The young people in my district want to vote and to be engaged in our democracy. We need to defend young people’s right to vote from unconstitutional attacks and reaffirm that the votes of young Americans matter. Forming lifelong voting habits in the next generation of Americans will strengthen our democracy and our nation in the long run.”

“I have long championed legislation to help Americans access the ballot box and I am proud to once again join Congressman Pappas and my colleagues to introduce the Protect the Youth Vote Act,” said Rep. Meng. “Voter suppression prevents millions of Americans—especially the youth—from participating in our democracy and silences their voices on issues like climate change, gun violence, and student debt. We owe it to them and future generations to create a country that incorporates their voices and that starts with safeguarding young people’s access to the ballot box.” 

As Chair Emeritus of Future Forum, I know how critical it is to get our young people engaged in the political process and empower them to shape their own future,” said Rep. Murphy. “As anti-democracy movements threaten the future of our electoral process, I’m proud to co-lead this legislation to preserve young Americans’ ability to cast a ballot, make their voices heard, and safeguard our vibrant democracy.”

“Everyone deserves a voice and vote in our government, including the young people who represent the future of our country. The Protect the Youth Vote Act will fight back against the concerted effort to suppress the voices of young people. We applaud Rep. Pappas for his leadership and support for this and the For the People Act,” said Tiffany Muller, President, End Citizens United / Let America Vote Action Fund. 

"With youth voting rights under attack across the country, the Protect the Youth Vote Act is a critical step towards ensuring all young people can safely and easily cast a ballot, free of intimidation or misinformation,” said Ben Wessel, Executive Director of Next Gen America. “With so much on the line for young Americans, we need to honor the 26th Amendment and strengthen its protections. 50 years after the amendment was signed, the Protect the Youth Vote Act will help it make good on its promise of a more fair democracy for young people."

“When the Twenty-Sixth Amendment was signed into law fifty years ago, it was built on the recognition that young people provide the courage, stamina, and high moral purpose that this Nation needs as it goes through ebbs and flows of idealism. Today, youth political engagement is at an all-time high. The record youth turnout, especially by youth of color, in the 2020 election has been met with over four times the number of bills to restrict voting access compared to this time last year. The Protect the Youth Act brings us one step closer to protecting against age discrimination in voting and fulfilling the forgotten promise of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment,”  said Yael Bromberg, Chief Counsel for Voting Rights with The Andrew Goodman Foundation. 

“The COVID-19 crisis presents substantial challenges to young voters, many of whom already face significant barriers to having their voices heard and votes counted under normal circumstances,” said Sylvia Albert, Director of Voting and Elections at Common Cause. “We must do everything we can to stop voter suppression, including the suppression of young voters, and Common Cause commends Representative Pappas for introducing the Protect the Youth Vote Act to help protect and amplify the voices of all youth voters.”

"Our voting rights have been under attack in this country for far too long. That assault extends to young people who face unique barriers in both registering to vote and voting, including voter ID laws, limited on-campus polling locations, and closed early-voting sites. The Protect the Youth Vote Act is critical to safeguarding voting rights of young Americans, increasing transparency and blocking harmful youth voter suppression tactics," said Jesse Barba, Sr. Director of External Affairs at Young Invincibles. 

“Young people across the country deserve to exercise their fundamental right to vote without that right being infringed on,” said Taofik Oladipo, Policy Advocate at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The Protect the Youth Vote Act provides necessary remedies to combat youth voter suppression. UCS applauds Representative Pappas and other co-sponsors for their attention to detail on the issue of protecting youth voting rights.”

Ratified 50 years ago in 1971, the Twenty-Sixth Amendment sent a strong message across our nation that all Americans 18 and over, especially young Americans, deserved to have a voice in the electoral process. 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.

 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.

This legislation has been endorsed by Let America Vote / End Citizens United, NextGen America, Andrew Goodman Foundation, Common Cause, Young Invincibles, Union of Concerned Scientists, League of Conservation Voters, and Headcount.

The text of the bill can be found here.

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