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Proposed constitutional amendment may inadvertently raise Pennsylvania voting age to 21

Proposed constitutional amendment may inadvertently raise Pennsylvania voting age to 21
Proposed constitutional amendment may inadvertently raise Pennsylvania voting age to 21 02:15

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — One of the five proposed state constitutional amendments approved by Republican lawmakers in Harrisburg would appear to raise the voting age in Pennsylvania from 18 to 21.

As political editor Jon Delano explains, that comes as news to many young voters.

Caleb Brobst, a 19-year-old from Erie at Carnegie Mellon University, follows politics closely as president of CMU's College Democrats. But he was not aware that the Republican-approved proposed constitutional amendment to require voter identification also raises the voting age to 21.

"I was unaware of the particular age restriction on voting," says Brobst. "We saw very vividly with the Vietnam War that there are multiple reasons why 18 is the perfect age for people to be able to vote."

If you can fight and die in battle, you should have the right to vote, which was the logic behind the age change nationally 50 years ago.

Will Allison of Cranberry, the political director of the Pitt College Democrats, sees politics behind denying young people the right to vote.

"I think what it tells you is that the Republican Party loses the youth vote. Young people vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, and that is a trend that has only continued," notes Allison.

Sources tell KDKA-TV that when House Republicans first approved a voter ID constitutional amendment, they correctly inserted an 18-year-old voting age, but Senate Republicans changed that to 21, the current language in the state constitution.

In a statement to KDKA-TV, a spokesperson for Senate Republican Leader Kim Ward said the age language doesn't mean anything because of the 1971 amendment to the U.S. Constitution, noting, "The addition of the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution changed the voting age to 18. While the voting age in the Pennsylvania Constitution remains 21, the U.S. Constitution supersedes the Pennsylvania Constitution making the voting age in Pennsylvania 18."

Senate Republicans said correcting the voting age was "unnecessary."

Brobst, who would lose his right to vote, is skeptical about all this.

"Personally, I am appalled, and I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt – that they weren't trying to do it – and it's simply legislative language that needs to get cleaned up as part of the process," Brobst said.

"But, unfortunately, given their past actions in disenfranchising voters, I don't know if they deserve that benefit of the doubt," he added.

"They know they can't win young votes," says Allison, "so why not disenfranchise young voters, I guess."

Again, Republican lawmakers deny that this was their intent, but unless lawmakers clean up the language, voters could be asked to vote for an amendment that keeps the voting age at 21. 

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