The Loch Ness Monster, Haggis, and a Lower Voting Age: What America Can Learn from Scotland
38 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2020
Date Written: December 13, 2019
This article, prepared for an American University Law Review symposium, explores what the United States can learn from the Scottish experience in lowering the voting age to sixteen. The minimum voting age in American elections seems firmly entrenched at eighteen, based in part on the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which prohibits states from denying the right to vote to anyone aged eighteen or older. Yet the conversation about lowering the voting age to sixteen, at least for local elections, has gained steam in recent years. The debate in America, however, is nascent compared to the progress in Scotland, which lowered the voting age to sixteen for the independence referendum in 2014 and for all elections nationwide in 2015. Using original research from interviews I conducted in Scotland, the article offers three main takeaways for American jurisdictions considering this reform: the Scottish experience in lowering the voting age has been successful because advocates (1) went into schools to register students to vote and encourage them to participate, (2) offered meaningful civics education, and (3) created a bipartisan coalition of policymakers who supported the change. As the debate on the voting age in the United States expands, advocates should draw upon these lessons from Scotland.
Keywords: voting rights, election law, voting, election, voting age, lower voting age, scotland, 26th amendment
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