Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy proposed raising the voting age to 25 during a campaign event in Iowa.
The biotechnology entrepreneur said the United States constitution should be amended so citizens can begin participating in elections at the age of 25, once they perform 6 months of military or first responder service, or after they pass the test taken by naturalized citizens. Ramaswamy described the proposed change as “civic duty voting,” saying Americans need to “think big” about how to revive public commitment to the national values as defined by the Constitution.
“We’re not a direct democracy. We are a *constitutional republic.* We need to revive civic duty among young Americans,” tweeted Ramaswamy on May 11. “We must be ambitious. I understand not everyone will like this proposal and that it will take persuasion to convince many of its merits, but I’m ready to take that on.”
The Constitution does not expressly *guarantee* universal voting. This is intentional: we live in a Constitutional republic, not a direct democracy. The 14th Amendment specifically distinguishes the immunities of citizenship from the privileges of citizenship. Voting is a… pic.twitter.com/tx4nbZHGv5
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) May 12, 2023
The ratification of the 26th Amendment in 1971 lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. Notably, some states permit 17-year-olds to vote in primaries if they turn 18 on or before election day. Senator Ted Kennedy proposed amending the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in June of 1970 arguing that people who were old enough to serve in the Vietnam War should have a voice in elections.
Similar sentiments sparked a debate over lowering the voting age during World War II. President Dwight Eisenhower called on Congress to propose amending the Constitution to permit 18-year-olds during his 1954 State of the Union speech.
“For years our citizens between the ages of 18 and 21 have, in time of peril, been summoned to fight for America. They should participate in the political process that produces this fateful summons,” said Eisenhower.
Some elected officials have called for the voting age to be lowered even further.
New York Representative Grace Meng reintroduced legislation to make the voting age 16 on Jan. 26, 2023.
“Over the past few years, we have seen the influence young people in our nation have on trends, political movements, and elections,” said Meng in a press release. “They continue to advocate for many crucial issues for which they are deeply passionate about. It is time to give them a voice in our democracy and reward their passion so that their voices are heard at the ballot box. 16- and 17-year-olds are legally permitted to work, drive and they also pay federal income taxes. They are contributing members of our society and I believe it is right and fair to allow them to vote in our elections.”
While speaking with voters in Iowa, Ramaswamy said that the “absence of national pride is a serious threat to the future of our country” and argued raising the default voting age would “create a sense of shared purpose and responsibility amongst young Americans to become educated citizens.”
The proposal is widely regarded as a long shot as amending the Constitution requires support from two-thirds of Congress and from three-fourths of the state legislatures.