Fort Lauderdale Kid Running for U.S. President Fights to Lower Voting Age | New Times Broward-Palm Beach


17-Year-Old Presidential Candidate Proposes Lowering the Voting Age to 15 in Broward

The United States constitution says that "no person... except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident..." 

Some people interpret that to mean that an under-35-year-old could not be sworn into office but is not prohibited from running for the position. So, 17-year-old youth rights activist Elijah Manley is running for president, even if the Fort Lauderdale High School junior isn't yet old enough to vote. Manley wants to change that and is going to start by trying to lower the voting age to 15 in Broward County.

“In the past, they had to fight to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 and then again to keep it there,” Manley says. “I’m ready to fight again and lower the voting age to 15.”

An amendment proposed by Manley would lower the voting age to 15 for municipal elections — like for county commission races and judges’s seats, which means that a person would still have to wait until age 18 to vote in state and federal elections. Manley has already drafted the amendment, discussed his plans with Commissioner Dale Holness, and plans to address commissioners at the meeting next Tuesday, January 12.

It’s all part of a larger youth rights movement sweeping across the country. Proponents argue that if 15-, 16-, and 17-year-olds can drive, go to work, and pay taxes, they can also decide who should represent them in local office. In May 2013, Tacoma Park, Maryland, became the first municipality to lower the voting age to 16. Last January, Hyattsville, Maryland, became the second. Manley wants Broward County to be the third.

“People under the age of 18 are showing increasing levels of intelligence and interest in politics. I believe everyone is equal and age should not be a barrier,” Manley says. “This would allow for a higher level of youth turnout and increase voter turnout.”

Last January, after hearing about the news in Hyattsville, Manley proposed lowering the voting age to 15 in Fort Lauderdale. He was met with stern disapproval. Manley says the Broward County commissioners have been more supportive of his idea. He's optimistic that he will have more success at the county level.

“It’s an election year, and I think commissioners want to do something that will leave a lasting impression,” Manley says. “School and education have been very important to commissioners in the past, and these are issues that really affect people under the age of 18.”

Manley identifies as an Independent. In October, he spoke at the Socialist Party USA National Convention. He didn’t receive the party's nomination for president but says he made strides in his fundraising campaign. But minimum age restrictions have already hindered him. Manley says that because he is under 18, he can’t open a bank account with his contributions.

Even if his amendment passes, Manley and his friends will still not be able to vote in the federal election this November. But Manley vows to tour the country, trying to lower the voting age to 15 in municipalities everywhere. Eventually, he hopes it will lead to a national movement to lower the voting age to 15 for federal elections. 

“I know that if it passes, it will only lead to more civic participation,” Manley says. “I think everyone wants that.”
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Jess Swanson is a staff writer at New Times. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami’s School of Communication and wrote briefly for the student newspaper until realizing her true calling: pissing off fraternity brothers by reporting about their parties on her crime blog. Especially gifted in jumping rope and solving Rubik’s cubes, she also holds the title for longest stint as an unpaid intern in New Times history. She left the Magic City for New York to earn her master’s degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, where she spent a year profiling circumcised men who were trying to regrow their foreskins for a story that ultimately won the John Horgan Award for Critical Science Journalism. Terrified by pizza rats and arctic temperatures, she quickly returned to her natural habitat.
Contact: Jess Swanson

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