Statement: Democracy, Voting Rights, and Our Youngest CitizensRacial Equity
In response to laws passed by several U.S. states, Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus on Children, issued the following statement:
“In any democracy, every voice should be heard and every vote should be counted. It is the right of every eligible voter to have a say in determining who is elected to represent them in making decisions about the policies that will help determine the future for their communities, families, and children.
Our children cannot vote. They are dependent on the adults in their lives and in society to stand up for them by voting with their best interests in mind. However, parents, guardians, grandparents, and supporters, particularly those in marginalized communities, cannot do so if their communities are systematically disenfranchised from accessing the ballot box.
As a nation, we should be making voting easier, and not harder for every eligible voter, regardless of age, race, gender, disability, religion, or sexual orientation. We should promote early and absentee voting in every election and provide the funding necessary to fully staff and make voting locations easily accessible, accommodating to our common and unique human needs, and devoid of systemic racism, exclusion, or harassment.
Policymakers must also protect the voting rights of younger voters. The 26th Amendment to the Constitution specifically requires that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.” Therefore, any laws that directly or indirectly limit or restrict the ability for college students and young adults to vote should be eliminated. Instead, acts should encourage and promote the engagement of our younger citizens.
With respect to children, they are watching. By our actions today, we are telling them – both here and across the world — whether we truly value our democracy and the participation of all citizens in our democracy. We must all work together to promote access to the ballot box and prevent attacks on this sacred right.”