So Rick Perry stands before a town hall meeting at the Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm’s College in New Hampshire and, on his own, with no prompting or sneaky questioning, made it clear that he thought only Americans 21 years old and over are allowed to vote. This may be one of the stupidest statements this presidential candidate has uttered so far, and you know that he has set a high bar for himself.
He obviously hasn’t read the U.S. Constitution. Or my book.
A few years ago, I published “Taking Back the Vote: Getting American Youth Involved in our Democracy.” Okay, so it never made it on Oprah’s must-read list, but the book was appreciated by many who believe that our society and our government can do more to encourage youth voting and civic engagement. In fact, the good people at Saint Anselm’s invited me to speak there on just this subject.
They take it seriously. So should anyone seeking the presidency.
The 26th Amendment, enacted in 1971, granted 18-year-olds the right to vote. It was a privilege long in the making, as the first legislation to extend the voting age was introduced during World War II on the theory that those who are drafted to fight for their country ought to be able to vote for their leaders. It took nearly 30 years for Congress to see the wisdom in that argument.
And one day for a dumb candidate to forget it.
For Rick Perry, 21 Is New 18
Jane Eisner, a pioneer in journalism, is writer-at-large at the Forward and the 2019 Koeppel Fellow in Journalism at Wesleyan University. For more than a decade, she was editor-in-chief of the Forward, the first woman to hold the position at the influential Jewish national news organization. Under her leadership, the Forward’s digital readership grew significantly, and won numerous regional and national awards for its original journalism, in print and online.