On Constitution Day, We Should Reflect on the Right to Vote, Which Generation Z Now Shares

COMMENTARY The Constitution

On Constitution Day, We Should Reflect on the Right to Vote, Which Generation Z Now Shares

Sep 17th, 2020 3 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Angela Sailor

Vice President, The Feulner Institute

Angela serves as Vice President of The Feulner Institute at The Heritage Foundation.
Today, the 18- to- 21-year-old age group includes members of Generation Z. adamkaz/Getty Images

Key Takeaways

Through the Constitution, America has continuously strengthened our union by expanding rights for the disenfranchised to participate in our democracy. 

With an election swiftly approaching, we should reflect on how it was only recently when the right to vote was granted to young Americans.

Voting is the cornerstone of freedom and a measure of governmental vigor and validity.

Constitution Day is a time to bolster our confidence in our great republic. Through the Constitution, America has continuously strengthened our union by expanding rights for the disenfranchised to participate in our democracy. 

And with an election swiftly approaching, we should reflect on how it was only recently when the right to vote was granted to young Americans.

Just 50 years ago, citizens under 21 did not have the right to vote. Then, in the spring of 1971, the 26th Amendment passed the House and Senate, and was ratified by the states on July 1, 1971, lowering the voting age to 18 as part of the Voting Rights Act of 1970.

Today, the 18- to- 21-year-old age group includes members of Generation Z. As many Americans fight to preserve our freedom and protect the American identity from being “canceled,” Gen Z may very well safeguard us from the nightmare of anarchy and tyranny.

Gen Z’s Importance to This Election

According to federal census data, in the United States there are 15 million citizens ages 18 to 21 who have turned 18 since the last presidential election.

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement says that Gen Z made history for having the highest voter turnout ever seen in a midterm election for the 18-to-21 age group. The center goes on to explain that this group will potentially be a significant voting bloc in the 2020 elections.

A recent study, “How 2020 is Impacting Gen Z’s Worldview,” reveals a majority of Gen Zers are confident that they can impact social change and are politically active. The COVID-19 pandemic has made them realize that political leaders’ decisions impact their daily lives, and 62% consider themselves part of a movement that will vote to express its views.

As we celebrate Constitution Day, we must take time to listen to new voters and the next generation of national leaders. According to the Center for Information and Research, young voters are voicing their uncertainty about state online voter registration systems and lack of information on mail-in ballots.

Generation Z is raising its hand to be an informed and energized people willing to protect freedom and opportunity. James Madison’s words resonate with this generation, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

Vital Role of Voting in Our Republic

On Constitution Day, why should we pause to appreciate the expansion of the right to vote to young Americans? Because voting is the cornerstone of freedom and a measure of governmental vigor and validity.

In his famous text, “Democracy in America,” Alexis de Tocqueville asserted that: “The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.” Voting is one of the most important ways in which private citizens participate in our democracy.

For over two years, the Constitution has maintained its authority because its Framers prudently established the separation of power to preserve the interests of majority rule and minority rights.

In 1787, “in order to form a more perfect union,” we adopted a new Constitution. The new Constitution was ratified not by state legislatures, but by conventions whose delegates were elected specifically for that purpose by “we the People of the United States.”

But while legitimacy rested on popular consent, crude majoritarianism was never the design or intent of the people. Our constitutional system aims not merely at majority rule, but at creating ruling majorities that are respectful of minority interests and values, of liberty and equality, and the federal and state governments. 

In 2020, the electorate needs to play the vital role of participating in the democratic process—young voters included. With the elections just 47 days away, The Heritage Foundation is working with leaders and youth organizations to ensure that young voters understand the Electoral College and how to exercise their right to vote.

Our newly released e-book, “The Essential Electoral College,” seeks to inform the public and elected officials about the often-underappreciated genius of the Framers’ design of the Electoral College. This e-book walks readers through the merits of the Electoral College, covering the purpose, structure, and its numerous benefits.

This new generation of voters is poised to make great contributions to our society and should be equipped to be knowledgeable citizens.

More than most, Gen Z believes that the American idea of equality is the supposition that individuals with different talents and opportunities are ensured equal treatment under the law in their quest for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Like John Quincy Adams, Generation Z would say, “Her glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of mind. She has a spear and a shield, but the motto upon her shield is Freedom, Independence, Peace.”

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal