The 19th Amendment is talked about as central to our nation’s suffrage story, with many situating women's suffrage work within feminist theory "wave" discourse. However, with this telling, scholars and others too frequently overlook young voters and efforts relating to their election law rights. This article seeks to remedy this oversight and complicate the voting rights canon, in addition to supporting efforts of today’s youth voting rights advocates. It does so by turning our attention to youth suffrage movements, which we argue also can be examined by way of a framework of "waves." The first to offer such an historical heuristic for youthful enfranchisement in this country, we explain the movement's first wave resulted in the ratification of the 26th Amendment in the 20th century, which lowered the voting age in this country from 21 to 18. The start of the 21st century, we argue, is witnessing the movement’s second wave, with many now seeking to extend the right to vote to those as young as 16.
Focusing on second wave youth suffrage activism, this article further challenges long-standing claims that youth are generally apathetic or unconcerned with the world around them. It offers insights into why many currently enfranchised young people may be constructively disenfranchised. It also suggests that recent actions on the part of young people—from Ferguson, to Parkland, to international global warming initiatives, to running for office—demonstrate the tremendous insight, engagement, and capacity of youth who are even younger than eighteen. In the end we conclude that exercising mercy based upon youthful vulnerability in the context of criminally justice is constitutionally consistent with supporting developing youth who seek to have their voices heard at the polls. Thus, we join with today’s second wavers in supporting their call for expanded voting rights.
Quinn, Mae C.; Dominguez, Caridad; Omega, Chelsey; Osei-Kofi, Abrafi; and Owens, Carlye
"Youth Suffrage: In Support of the Second Wave,"
Akron Law Review: Vol. 53
, Article 6.
Available at: https://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/akronlawreview/vol53/iss2/6