Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), speaking at the Generation Progress Summit last week, voiced her support for lowering the voting age to 16 or 17 in order to encourage greater voter registration among high school students.
The voting age in the U.S. is currently 18, which means that many students have the ability to vote in their final year of high school.
But the Democratic Minority leader of the U.S. House asserted that the lowering the voting age to 16 or 17 would allow for increased participation of high school students, and a consequential shift in the political landscape.
“When kids are in school, they’re so interested, they’re so engaged,” said Pelosi. “We’d like them to be at least registered before they leave.”
In 1971, the U.S. dropped the voting age from 21 to 18 as a result of student activism protesting the Vietnam War. Many students were angered that young men could be drafted at 18 but could not vote until age 21, and thus adopted the slogan “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote.”
This movement resulted in the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which expressly prohibits the states or federal government from using age as a reason to deny anyone over the age of 18 the right to vote.
Nearly every country in the world has a voting age of 18 or above, with Brazil, Argentina, Cuba and Austria being a few of the exceptions to this common trend.