FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
While the taste of November’s electoral victory is still fresh in our mouths, the Virginia Young Democrats Teen Caucus launched historic, far-reaching legislative priorities for the 2021 Virginia General Assembly session designed to empower Virginia teens.
The top priority piece of legislation for the Teen Caucus will be our bill to boost teen civic engagement by allowing middle and high school students to partake in part-day absences once a school year to participate in political or civic events. This policy has been successfully implemented in Fairfax County with no noticeable increase in chronic absenteeism or evidence of abuse, and it energized young activists to become involved in the political process. Del. Sam Rasoul (D-11) will carry our bill in the House of Delegates, and Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-09) will carry our companion bill in the Senate. Our civic engagement bill has already earned the support and endorsement of the Democratic Party of Virginia, and we have worked and will continue to work with Virginia Democrats young and old to ensure its passage.
Building off the historic work of our Democratic legislature in 2020, the Teen Caucus will fight to expand accessibility to the ballot box by supporting voter pre-registration for anyone aged 16. This bill will simplify voter registration by allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, and then they’d be automatically added to the voter roster when they do reach voting age. Currently, 14 states allow voter registration or pre-registration at age 16, and 5 states allow it at age 17. A record-breaking 20 percent of Virginia’s voters that turned out for the 2020 general election were aged 18 to 29, a record only Georgia can match. Virginia needs to build off the momentum of this year’s record-breaking turn out to make it easier for all Virginians to exercise their most basic right: the right to vote. Majority Whip Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49), who carried HB 215 in 2020, will patron this bill again in 2021, with the enthusiastic support of all Virginia teen Democrats.
Once again, the Teen Caucus will support amending the Virginia Constitution to allow 16-year-olds to vote in Virginia’s local elections. Young people are going to bear the impact of the decisions our local governments make today on how to address climate change, housing affordability, infrastructure, and policing. Most importantly, students are the most impacted by decisions made by school boards who enact policies and budgets that affect the quality of their education.
The Teen Caucus will join our coalition allies in supporting reducing the number of standard of learning assessments to the federal minimum and abolishing all sales taxes on feminine hygiene products; as well as supporting amendments to the Virginia Constitution to affirm personal reproductive rights and remove the homophobic prohibition on same-sex marriage.