With both National Conventions in the books, it is full steam ahead to the US general election in November.
Voting safely amid the pandemic has put vote by mail (also known as “vote at home” or “absentee voting”) center stage. Beyond the broader efforts to suppress this voting method, such as by intentionally sabotaging the Postal Service, eight states have made it harder for residents under a certain age to cast their vote remotely.
The states — Kentucky, Texas, Missouri, South Carolina, Indiana, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi — grant an automatic excuse to voters over 65 (in some cases 60) who wish to vote at home. However, voters under that age are required to prove a specific excuse — such as living outside the jurisdiction or disability — to vote at home.
One Person, One Vote
This violates the Constitution’s 26th Amendment, which prohibits discrimination in voting based on age for citizens at least 18 years old. The Amendment was ratified in 1971 amid Vietnam War protests claiming that those “old enough to fight” should be “old enough to vote.”
The voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 in all states, but the Amendment did more than that: it stated that states may not burden voters based on age. This followed the precedent set by the 1870 15th Amendment, extending voting to non-white men, and the 1920 19th Amendment, extending voting to women.
Regardless of age, race, gender, religion, or zip code, voters must be treated equally under the law. Simply put, “One person, one vote.”
Legal appeals are ongoing. In Texas, the Fifth Circuit overruled a San Antonio federal judge in an order blocking an injunction that would have allowed any Texan to qualify for a mail-in ballot during the pandemic, finding no problem with the discriminatory law.
Shockingly, the court argued that “there will always be voters for whom, through no fault of the state, getting to the polls is ‘difficult’ or even ‘impossible’… For the courts to intervene, a voter must show that the state ‘has in fact precluded [voters] from voting’ — that the voter has been ‘prohibited from voting by the State.’”
This argument — that so long as the right to vote exists, it does not matter if some desirable groups can exercise that right easier than other undesirable groups — is antithetical to the principles of democracy. It is the same argument that was used in the Jim Crow South to curtail the Black vote through poll taxes and literacy tests. It cannot be tolerated.
Equality of Voters
According to a new report released by the Andrew Goodman Foundation, voters over 65 are 10 percent more likely to vote by mail nationally than voters 18 to 34, but in states that discriminate by age, the difference jumps to 15 percent. The trend was consistent across age cohorts.
It is no coincidence that these eight states have chosen to give their seniors preferential treatment, either. The eight states in question have Republican control of both state houses and the governor’s mansion, and seniors are their most consistent supporters.
Our Constitution demands equal treatment under the law. Age cannot be a factor used to promote one group of voters over another for political advantage. In the coming months, it is essential to demand that every state uphold the equality of its voters. Ultimately, the Supreme Court will have the last word.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.