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Constitutional amendments in the state of Texas

- Nabin Shrestha

Jan 30, 2019-

Elections are a vital process for any democratic nation, and for elections to be efficient and reliable, the legislative government sets a list of requirements that citizens must meet in order to be eligible to vote. Throughout history, there have been numerous requirements for citizens to be eligible voters. These can change over time depending on an array of factors.

For instance, after independence from Great Britain, only white land-owning men were allowed to vote in the United States. However, as the population continued to grow and diversify, these requirements became more accommodating. Currently, throughout the country, voter requirements vary depending on the state. This article focuses on voter requirements for citizens of Texas—particularly, amendments to the state constitution to allow 17-year-olds to vote in party primary elections as long as they turn 18 by the date of the November general elections.

In 1876, Texas adopted its first constitution and since then, it has been amended 474 times. In contrast to other states, constitutional amendments in Texas come in the form of a joint resolution instead of bills. These joint resolutions can come from the Senate or House of Representatives either in regular or special sessions. The joint resolution is then filed with the secretary of state before being voted in favour of or against the amendment.

The 26th Amendment Section I aims to ensure the rights of a citizen of the United States who are 18 years of age or older shall not be denied or abridged to vote by the United States or any state on account of age. Similarly, Section II states that Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. In the state of Texas, the constitution offers that the law, by a two-thirds vote of all members of each house, may propose amendments revising the constitution. Subsequently, the proposed amendments need to be submitted for the approval of qualified voters of the state in the general election. In case the voters vote in favour of the amendment, it is adopted into the Texas constitution. The amendment becomes effective not earlier than 15 days or later than 30 days after Election Day. These dates allow for the official canvass of returns showing adoption. Alternatively, the amendment gives specific instruction over the day it should be effective, and if the amendment proposal is rejected by voters, it may be resubmitted by the legislature.

There are numerous arguments in favour of and against the proposed amendment in lowering the voting age in Texas. First, those in favour argue that it makes the election process more democratic. This fact is especially true, as lowering the voting age will enable numerous new voters to decide their representatives at both the local, state and federal levels. The demographics of voters turning 18 years old in an election year can be considered mature enough to contribute to the elective process. Lowering the age can also increase voter turnout. In contrast to older voters, younger voters feel more compelled to place their ballot as it determines a great deal of their future. Finally, younger voters allow for innovation by providing insight.

Amidst these arguments in favour of the amendment, there are numerous people who express concerns over the proposal. These are generally older individuals. They argue that a younger voting demographic can be easily swayed. The voters are in their teenage years and still struggling to find their stand on matters around them. Therefore, increasing the complexity of the elections will further complicate their life. Further, they argue that this demographic is not well informed enough to vote. Teenagers might have a limited understanding of how the government works and therefore should not participate in elections.

I believe that reducing the voting age limit for individuals turning 18 years in the same year as the general elections have more benefits for the state. Ideally, the only thing that limits these demographics from voting is a matter of months. The demographic is mature enough to make decisions that affect its daily life, which includes having a political stand. Had the joint resolution passed the house and the Senate, I strongly believe that residents of Texas might have approved it. In any state and country, teenagers have responsibilities over numerous aspects of their lives. Furthermore, they are more trustworthy of youth and power.

Conclusively, lowering the voting age will make the election more democratic. Youngsters who are involved in the electoral process get to acknowledge how their participation can affect politics and policy. Through voting, youth have the same ability as others to exercise political influence and contribute towards the election. Moreover, the young generation should vote to develop a habit of voting to increase voter turnout allowing for innovation by providing more insight. Youth are the pillars of the nation. How we shape them determines their future, and including the young generation in the general election will ensure that their distinct interests are not neglected by policymakers.

- Shrestha is pursuing a Bachelor’s in Computer Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA

Published: 30-01-2019 09:56

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