Since the early 1970’s the age of American citizens allowed to legally vote in the United States has been eighteen years of age. Prior to 1972, the age for all citizens had been the traditional age of legal consent or twenty-one. The reason for the change in voting age was based largely on the Vietnam War (1959-1975), which at that time in the United States encompassed a national draft of all male citizens ranging from eighteen to twenty-five for single and married men with no children, and up to thirty-five for men of all ages and parental status in the time of national emergency or war.
Justification for this change in national policy which required an amendment to the U.S. Constitution and ratification by a majority states was based on: 1) the ongoing war in Vietnam, 2) resistance to the war which resulted in demonstrations on various college campuses including the Kent State Massacre by Ohio National Guardsmen on May 4, back in 1970, and 3) the fact that national sentiment concluded that if a nation were asking its young men to serve their country, they should be able to vote in national elections as well. Although there was resistance to this Constitutional change, the majority of Americans realized that when fighting a vastly unpopular war, the logical reasons to prevent soldiers who where under twenty-one from voting for their Commander and Chief President Richard M. Nixon seemed outdated.
While the justification for lowering the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen during the Vietnam War in retrospect seems logical, lowering the voting age to thirteen holds less of a sustainable argument or justification when comparing the reasons for the aforementioned change and the question now being discussed in this paper.
Although the concept of allowing thirteen year-old citizens to vote seems a bit misguided if not downright foolish, the concept of lowering the voting age below the eighteen-year-old threshold is not without consideration.
Although the views of State Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) seem unusual, they are in keeping with his long-standing views on liberal topics that have endeared him to his constituents. The final question to this possible change to at least the California State Constitution, is that under what criteria should citizens who are under the age of eighteen and possibly as low as thirteen be allowed to vote, and if such criteria had never been established when the US Constitution was changed in 1972, what checks and balance could be established at this point in time?