August 13, 2020

Congressman Neguse Announces Sweeping Voting Reform Legislation to Stop Disenfranchisement of Young People

Washington, D.C. —Today Congressman Joe Neguse, along with Reps. Chris Pappas (NH-01), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Grace Meng (NY-06), and Stephanie Murphy (FL-07) announced the landmark Protect the Youth Vote Act in response to systematic efforts across the country to suppress the voices of young Americans. The Protect the Youth Vote Act is comprehensive legislation that will safeguard the rights of young Americans by increasing transparency, more clearly defining actions that violate the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, and providing the Attorney General and voters with the legal tools to address and prevent actions that would undermine or abridge the right to vote on the basis of age.  

“I have long been dedicated to the work of ensuring access and opportunity for the next generation to participate in our democracy,” said Rep. Neguse, the youngest member of Colorado’s congressional delegation. “I’m proud to introduce the Protect the Youth Vote Act today to safeguard the voting rights of young Americans, increase transparency and block harmful youth voter suppression tactics. The work of protecting and securing voting rights for all Americans continues, it is incredibly necessary and important work that we cannot lose sight of.” 

Prior to serving in Congress, Representative Neguse co-founded Colorado’s largest youth voter registration organization. 

While the Twenty-Sixth Amendment was ratified in 1971 to bring young people into the electoral process and promote widespread civic engagement, lack of federal enforcement of the amendment has led many states to impose unfair and unnecessary restrictions that prevent young people from participating in our democracy. In recent years, we have seen an array of arbitrary barriers erected at the state level to make youth voting more difficult, including burdensome voter ID and proof of residency requirements, inconvenient or limited polling sites, and intentional intimidation and confusion caused by election officials. 

Youth voter suppression tactics not only undercut participation in our democracy in the short term, they also serve to undermine the long-term health of our democracy by discouraging the development of a culture of democratic engagement among young people. In addition to ensuring “[t]he right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age,” the Twenty-Sixth Amendment also grants Congress the power to enforce the amendment through appropriate legislation. The Protect the Youth Vote Act is a critical first step to strengthen federal protections guaranteed by the Twenty-Sixth Amendment and protect youth voting rights nationwide.

“Those who work in the public trust should protect the right to vote, not make it harder for Americans to cast a ballot and make their voices heard. Yet in too many places across the country voting rights are under attack,” said Congressman Pappas. “I am proud to introduce the Protect the Youth Vote Act which takes a stand against systematic efforts to disenfranchise America’s young people by providing stronger oversight through the Department of Justice and increasing election transparency. We have a profound responsibility to encourage the next generation to participate in our democracy and ensure our government is truly of, by, and for the people.”

“Our voting rights are under attack and efforts to disenfranchise youth could have lasting effects for decades to come,” said Rep. Gallego. “The young people in my district want to vote and want to be engaged in our democracy, and we need to prevent unconstitutional barriers that will keep them from exercising their right to do so.”

“I have long sought to protect and expand the voting rights of young people, and I’m pleased to continue doing so with this important legislation,” said Rep. Meng. “Young people are the future of our nation. It is critical that they participate in our democracy and not face barriers to the ballot box. I’m pleased to work with my colleagues to ensure that the voices of young Americans are heard.”

“The right to vote is a fundamental, constitutional right. As Chair of Future Forum, I know that young Americans’ participation in our political process is critical to maintaining a vibrant democracy,” said Rep. Murphy. “I’m proud to co-lead this legislation to ensure we preserve and protect the ability of young Americans to cast a ballot and channel their activism into action.”

“The COVID-19 crisis presents substantial challenges to young voters, many of whom already face significant barriers to having their voices heard and votes counted under normal circumstances,” said Sylvia Albert, Director of Voting and Elections at Common Cause. “We must do everything we can to stop voter suppression, including the suppression of young voters.”

“This is what happens when we elect young people to Congress -- they fight for the rights of other young people,” said Ben Wessel, NextGen America Executive Director. “All young Americans should be free to register and cast a ballot without having to navigate misinformation and suppression. This bill will help increase youth turnout in all elections and help fulfill the promise of the 26th Amendment."

 Specifically, the Protect the Youth Vote Act would:

  • Outline specific practices that violate the Twenty-Sixth Amendment.
  • Provide authority for courts to retain jurisdiction in areas where they have found that a State or jurisdiction violated the twenty-sixth amendment.
  • Allow voters or the Attorney General to receive preventative relief against actions that violate the Twenty-Sixth Amendment.
  • Require transparency on any violations of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment and reasonable public notice for voting changes.
  • Allow the Attorney General authority to request federal observers where there is a serious threat of youth voter suppression.