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Give Youth the Vote! #16ToVote

Patrick Henry giving a speech on March 23rd, 1775 at the Second Virginia Convention. This is the same speech he is most famously known for uttering the phrase “Give me liberty or give me death!” (source)

Although yesterday was supposed to be the regular due date for taxes, the IRS has extended the filing season by almost a month, with the last day to file taxes on May 17th of this year. The delay has been attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has interrupted many facets of living in the U.S. since it was declared a pandemic more than a year ago.

Taxes, no matter what day they are due, are nothing new. In the introductory graphic above, Patrick Henry gives his most famous speech at the Second Virginia Convention where he also famously uttered the words “Give me liberty or give me death” to protest the Stamp Act that the British previously passed taxing American Colonists a decade earlier, in 1765. A transcript of the entire speech can be found here.

However, in modern times, we still have no representation for a certain marginalized group that is fighting to get a vote for their paid taxes: 16-year old taxpayers.

Unlike in Patrick Henry’s day nearly 225 years ago, a war is not necessarily needed to be waged to get young people the vote, but that doesn’t mean it will be easily given either. Instead of fighting, we’re working through advocacy- we have many organizations working together around the world, and in the U.S., coast to coast from the Atlantic to the Pacific, to enfranchise more youth. Like the colonists of Patrick Henry’s day, taxation without representation continues to oppress our youth. As supporters of lowering the voting age, we need to fight this injustice.

For my part, I have provided a social media blueprint to help with that endeavor, using my skills as a social media contributor from my previous experience working with Twitter. Obviously, it will take more than posting online on social media to effect change. But if used efficiently and effectively, it can be a powerful tool in the arsenal of youth rights and lower voting age supporters all around the world.

Not only can it help bring awareness to those unaware of the movement, but it can also help gather and unite allies to inform them who we are and what we’re trying to do. Social media platforms are the best mediums we can use at this time as the world slowly opens up again after being sheltered in place from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this is an optimal time to make change happen. We have the legislative tools and supportive politicians we need, but we have to campaign for the success of this bill, regardless of where our organizational loyalties are. Lowering the voting age is enough of a motivator to campaign for H J Res 23. This is why we have to use the tools we have to advocate for it- social media is one of those tools.

We’re also at the edge of losing one of our most supportive voices in government, Speaker Nancy Pelosi. We cannot predict whether this is indeed her last term as suggested by some. At the same time, even if that is not the case, there are still issues that youth will have to deal with without a vote, unless H J Res 23 is passed.

The point is, regardless of who the Speaker of the House is, which representatives represent your district and who your two state senators, whatever issues affect youth will continue to affect them unless they have a voice to say otherwise. The quicker they can achieve a voice, the quicker they can address those issues through voting. With the current political climate, it would seem easier to put all our resources into this and get this done now while we can.

Not only have youths without a vote had to tackle the issues that many organizations are trying to address now, but like many of us who can vote, youth have had to live through and continue to live through the unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic. This development has also brought on a new dynamic to the dialogue- traditional employments for youth has been severely affected due to the closure of many leisure venues like restaurants, fast food places and other places where youth could have been employed had the pandemic not taken hold.

Many youth have also been affected in their educational and career paths. Schools may have had to make decisions as to how to proceed during the pandemic, whether this be what courses to remove from a school’s class offerings, what resources are available to students if they are required to learn from home and even school events affected by the pandemic. Decisions around these have had little input from students except for a few places that have included student opinion on their school boards.

Finally, even the dilemma of fighting the pandemic itself has brought the idea of even medical autonomy for many 16-year olds to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to take a vaccine in order to avoid getting COVID-19 and passing it to others. First, this began to emerge as one of the first vaccines began being made available at the end of last year and now as the vaccine eligibility continues to open up, with the start of next week, April 19th, as being the day when eligibility is opened up for most individuals 16-years old and older in most states.

As Patrick Henry protested the Stamp Act in 1775, so to do we need to act on finally lowering the voting age to 16. I have outlined my argument for doing so as best as I can. In a recent call among ally organizations, a question was posed as to what the best reason to lower the voting age is. I had replied that taxation was one big reason. Since then, so many reasons have been discussed, including many I have addressed in the previous paragraphs.

There are so many things going for the movement. We have the momentum, motivation most optimal and opportune time to do this, and most collaborative group by far compared to previous attempts. We should make sure that this opportunity does not go to waste. All we have to do is work together- we have all the tools and resources we need to make this all happen. Let’s enfranchise more youth together!

-Jеstеr Jеrsеy

DаvisKiwаniаn@mаil.cоm (not gmail)

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