Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Out of Touch Congressman

Third page of Constitution of the United States.Image via Wikipedia
Shayna (my 8 year old) is very upset that kids can't vote. She was reading a comic strip several days ago. It mentioned writing your Congressman. Shayna composed a hand-written note and showed it to me. She asked if she could send it to her Congressman. To encourage her to get involved in the political process, I said "sure". The result has been "interesting".

First of all, it's easy enough to find your Congressmen and Senators on-line now. And, it's pretty easy to email them. However, I wanted them to get Shayna's hand-written letter. After several minutes of looking, I was finally able to find a physical address for our Representative John Boehner. But, the website discourages you from mailing anything saying it could take up to three weeks to reach him due to security issues. OK. I understand that. Three weeks for an 8 year old is an eternity. So, I decided to type her letter out for her. Here's what Shayna had to say:

Dear Congressman,

Why can't kids vote? It is so un-fair. Kids should have rights! We are just as american as adults are! I don't know about other kids, but I wouldn't be persuaded by candy. Me and my sister both think we should be able to vote. And lots of other kids we know think so to. We, as in all of us kids, care who is running OUR country. (Please pass this bill sooner than 2 years. But, if its longer thats okay to). Please take this into consideration. Tell me your answer as well.

From a loyal citizen,
8 years old

I was very impressed with Shayna's letter. Much more so than with the Congressman's reply:

Dear Shayna:

Thank you for your recent communication in regard to lowering the voting age. It is always good to hear from my young constituents.

As you may know, the Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution "prohibits the federal government and the states from forbidding any citizen of age 18 or greater to vote simply because of their age." In the summer of 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson asked the Congress to offer an amendment lowering the voting age to 18 years of age. In order to amend the U.S. Constitution, three-fourths of state legislatures must pass the proposed amendment. Senator Jennings Randolph introduced this amendment in 1971, and the necessary number of states approved this amendment within months. The Twenty-sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on July 1, 1971.

Before the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, each state determined the appropriate voting age for its citizens. This amendment was introduced and passed largely because of the presence of the Vietnam War. At that time, many supporters of this amendment argued that if individuals were old enough to be drafted into the military, they should be old enough to vote on the selection of the civilian government who would be determining if, when, and how military force would be used.

While this amendment provided voting privileges to those of age to protect our country by serving in the military, it also had its consequences. The passage of this amendment led to the lowering of the minimum age for other 'adult' rights. For example, by the end of the 1980s, all fifty states had lowered the age of consent of marriage and the age of signing contracts without parental consent to 18. Many other states lowered the drinking age to 18 throughout the 1970s and early 1980s until the National Drinking Age of 1984 compelled states to set a limit of 21 years of age for the purchase of alcoholic beverages by threatening cuts in federal highway construction money. In addition, the legal age of gambling and the purchase of tobacco products were also changed in some states.

I understand your belief that those under the age of 18 are affected by the issues that our country faces. Everyone - including children, teenagers, young adults, middle-aged adults, and senior citizens - is affected by these pressing issues. However, I do not believe the Federal Government should have a role in further lowering the age to vote. I believe 18 is an appropriate benchmark to measure the point at which most Americans begin to reach the intellectual maturity and are able to accept the civic responsibility that voting requires. In addition, a federal mandate lowering the voting age to 16 years of age would no doubt spark repeated controversies in each of the 50 states on what the appropriate age for 'adult' activities is. However, I do believe that this is an issue for state and local governments. If you would like to further pursue this matter, I suggest you contact your state legislators. Their contact information is below:

Rep. Diana Fessler
77 S. High St
13th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 466-8114

Senator Tom Roberts
Senate Building
Room #128, First Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Telephone: (614) 466-6247

You may be interested to know that Ohio citizens who will be 18 years of age before the general election are permitted to vote in the primary election.

Thank you again for contacting me with your thoughts. Please don't hesitate to inform me of your concerns in the future. To sign up for email updates, I welcome you to visit my website at

John A. Boehner

Dude, you're writing an 8 year old. I'm sure this is a canned reply. But, couldn't you have your secretary take the time to write an appropriate canned reply for an 8 year old kid who wants to be involved in the political process? I guess Shayna will be thrilled to get any reply.

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