On March 9, 1970, Senator Ted Kennedy spoke to the importance of lowering the voting age to 18 in testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments: "By lowering the voting age we will improve the overall quality of our electorate, and make it more truly representative of our society. By adding our youth to the electorate, we will gain a group of enthusiastic, sensitive, idealistic and vigorous new voters." In 2008, young people embodied the spirit of Kennedy's words, voting in historic records to elect President Barack Obama.
In July of 1971, the 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution was signed into law, guaranteeing citizens of 18 years or older the right to vote. In the 40 years since, young people have become an active and vocal part of the voting population and championed equality and fairness.
We fight for issues we care deeply about to ensure that our nation is strong, prosperous, and guarantees the equal rights we hold so dear.
From 2000 to 2008, the percentage of youth ages 18 to 29 who voted rose 11 points -- from 40 percent to 51 percent. And since the historic 2008 election, where young Americans turned out in record numbers for President Obama, we've continued to work hard to make our voices heard and to engage our peers.
Every step of the way, we've participated in the President's national service initiatives, worked in support of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, rallied behind the Affordable Care Act, supported the expansion of Pell grants, fought for the DREAM Act, the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," and so much more.
As we approach the 2012 elections, youth are motivated to turn out our generation's voters once again. Over the last 40 years, youth have made incredible progress in establishing their voice in the democratic process and in civic engagement, but we recognize we still have progress to be made.
Senator Kennedy, testifying in support of the 26th Amendment, stated that he believed that “both the exercise of the franchise and the expectation of the franchise provide a strong incentive for greater political involvement and understanding” and that by “lowering the minimum voting age to 18…[w]e will give our youth a new arena for their idealism, activism, and energy."
The College Democrats of America celebrate the 26th Amendment's fortieth anniversary by renewing our commitment to taking full advantage of that chance.