On March 7 — 48 years after the ratification of the 26th Amendment — Congress voted on an amendment to H.R. 1 that would lower the voting age in federal elections to 16. The measure failed 126-305 with nearly half of House Democrats voting against it — and only one Republican supporting it.
That Republican is Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas’ 26th congressional district.
To defend his vote, Burgess later appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
Known for his truculent style, Carlson stated his disagreement with Burgess right off the bat — even calling the idea “insane.” Burgess first responded with clarification that this measure, in fact, failed and that it was no serious threat to becoming law. He then justified his vote by stating that “Look[ing] through the lens of my experience, when I was 16, did I pay taxes? Yes.”
Burgess’ line of reasoning goes that 16-year-olds participate in the economy and pay into the system, so why not give them a say in the way their government spends that money? Carlson countered by pointing out that non-citizens also pay into a system they do not get to vote in, and suggested that under Burgess’ calculation non-citizens should also be able to vote. Carlson asked, under that pretense, “Does that mean people who don’t pay taxes shouldn’t be allowed to vote?”
Burgess disagreed with both suggestions.
Burgess stated his worry that 16-year-olds will “inherit more debt than any other generation.” The Texas Republican believes this necessitates adding their say to the political process. Burgess suggested the student loan debt they will soon acquire is also reason to lower the voting age.
Since “colleges are encouraging [and] facilitating” the large quantities of student loan debt, Burgess believes those future debtors deserve a say in the process. Most 16-year-olds, however, are not accruing college debt, and won’t until after they turn 18 and graduate high school.
Fellow House Republican Rodney Davis of Illinois, in response to the proposal, stated that “We shouldn’t arbitrarily lower the voting age just because right now, I believe Democrats think they’ll gain more votes.” Burgess countered this idea in the interview with Carlson by saying, “If what we’re afraid of [with this proposal] is that Democrats would get more votes, then that’s on us.” Burgess stressed Republicans need to better persuade younger generations that “[they] have better ideas.”
Burgess finished by explaining, “If we do not engage that age demographic, [Democrats will continue] to build equity with them for future elections.”
Were the proposal to become law, roughly 12 million high school age students would be eligible to vote in the 2020 election.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.