The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.
The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Perhaps you will think that because I’m older (and you probably think crotchety as well), I decided to write this post. Well, I am older than I used to be and I would hope my bubbly upbeat personality and rosy view of life will dispel the other issue from your minds. But I just decided to write on the subject because I haven’t put up anything very controversial lately – and I was in the mood for doing so. Call it personal whimsy.
LBJ’s explosive expansion of the war in Viet Nam in the mid – late ‘60’s ignited one of the greatest hell fires of division in American society that we had seen since the Civil War. The college protests against the war were viewed by mainstream America as being nothing more than a few radical leftists who were lucky to live in a country where freedom of speech was a part of our heritage. Most Americans supported our war effort.
Soldiers started coming home in body bags, mothers lost sons and sisters lost their brothers. The attitude of Americans shifted from one of support for the war as more “non-radical”, mainstream people were personally affected by the mounting number of American deaths.
It was from this climate that we began considering the issue of whether, for the fourth time we should expand the right to vote by extending this to 18 year olds. The mantra of the day was, “If you’re old enough to die for your country, you’re old enough to vote.” In 1971 the amendment was passed and ratified.
When the Constitution was written, the average life expectancy was approximately 35 years. By the time the 16th amendment was adopted, that had increased to about 75 years. (As an interesting side note, in the last 43 years, despite all our medical advances, the current expectation is approximately 80 years).
So a young man in the newly constituted United States of America might be able to vote in only seven congressional elections and three presidential elections before he went into the great beyond. Given the short life spans, establishing an age of maturity of 21 seemed to be rather a high bar – intended to insure that people who were sufficiently mature and informed would be the participants in the voting process. With the lack of universal mandatory education, it is reasonable to believe that not every voter was as well informed as the Founding Fathers might have hoped.
Americans have been both blessed by and suffered from out relative size and our location on the globe. We have been blessed because we are generally isolated from hostile governments and have been spared incursions by them on our home soil. We have suffered because our isolation has kept up generally insulated from an understanding of what is happening in much of the world as the following video demonstrates:
Okay. I’ve tried to offer an explanation for why we may not be as well informed as we should with respect to foreign events. But that is hardly an excuse for our lack of information about basic facts regarding our own nation:
In reviewing these two videos, it should be apparent that age is no respecter of stupidity. So no matter what age we deem a person to be “eligible” to vote, it is apparent that is no guarantee that the citizen so empowered will exercise good judgment in exercising that right.
I would like to reiterate my belief that while voting might be a “right,” its intelligent exercise is a responsibility. I have previously suggested that all voters, irrespective of age be tested – say once every 10 years – to make sure that their cognitive functions are still operational. By that I mean that they be able to meet the same standard of scoring at least 58 correct answers out of the 99 questions as we require of those who apply for citizenship. I have provided the link to “The Christian Science Monitor’s” citizenship test so that you may review your own knowledge of America and American history.
Good luck. NO GOOGLING. And no talking among yourselves. Grab your pencils, open your test books – GO!