Rep. Ayanna Pressley proposes lowering voting age to 16, claims maturity not an issue

Freshman Rep. Ayanna Pressley this week proposed lowering the voting age from 18 to 16, suggesting concerns about “maturity” at that age should not be an issue.

The measure failed Thursday, garnering just 126 votes in the House, and further discussion was “postponed” -- meaning there is still potential for further consideration on the proposal.

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Pressley, D-Mass., introduced the amendment to the For the People Act—a broad anti-corruption and voting rights bill-- on Wednesday which would allow Americans as young as 16 to vote in federal elections. The measure was her first proposed amendment in Congress.

“Beginning at the age of sixteen, young people are contributing to both the labor force and their local economies by paying income taxes, and yet they are deprived of the opportunity to exercise their right to vote,” Pressley said on the House floor Thursday. “In this country, we affirm that when a person walks into the voting booth and pulls that lever, there is no meritocracy or hierarchy. The booth is the equalizer.”

She added: “Some have questioned the maturity of our youth. I don’t.”

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Pressley went on to praise the “wisdom and maturity” 16-year-olds have, and how that stems from “2019 challenges, hardships, and threats.”

The proposed amendment stated: “A State may not refuse to permit an individual to register to vote or vote in an election for Federal office held in the State on the grounds of the individual’s age if the individual will be at least 16 years of age on the date of the election.”

If passed, the amendment would have become effective “with respect to the elections held in 2020” and onwards.

Pressley is not the first Massachusetts lawmaker to make a push for lowering the voting age. On March 7, 1970, Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., proposed lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. He argued that it was wrong for young Americans to be eligible to be drafted in the Vietnam War, but not vote.

The measure passed.