By Maggie Stern
On April 27th 1971, the Texas state legislature ratified the 26th Amendment, expanding the eligible electorate to include 18- to 21-year-olds.
Fifty years later, our legislators are moving in the opposite direction – trying to suppress the voices of Texans through legislation like HB 6 and SB 7.
Massive youth protests throughout the 1960s led to rapid societal changes including the passage of the 26th Amendment. Today, youth continue leading movements to end police brutality, to confront climate change, and to lead an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also demanding change at the ballot box, with 52 to 55 percent of young people casting a vote in last year’s election.
Yet instead of embracing and empowering young people, some Texas lawmakers are trying to add new barriers to voting in a state that already has the highest cost of voting in the country. HB 6 and SB 7 are just two of over sixty proposed laws this legislative session that would restrict the right to vote. Both bills burden marginalized voters with onerous and invasive paperwork, with potential criminal penalties for minor mistakes. They also embolden partisan poll watchers, who have a lengthy history in Texas of targeting Black and Latinx voters in particular. These bills are anti-democratic and part of a national campaign to roll back the progress we have made in fighting for all our voices to count.
It is time for a national democratic renewal of the kind we saw fifty years ago, where we reaffirm our commitment to a democracy that includes us all. Young Texans deserve common-sense and popular reforms that would strengthen our democracy, such as expanding online voter registration, adopting automatic voter registration, and improving our high school voter registration law. We deserve leaders who support and celebrate our rising young electorate – not politicians cynically attempting to maintain power by preventing Texans from voting. Children’s Defense Fund – Texas stands with every voter to ensure that we can freely elect our leaders and continue the work towards a country that serves us all.