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Vivek Ramaswamy Advocates Civic Tests for Young Voters-a Move Americans Say is Reminiscent of the Voting Rights Struggle of the 1960s 

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Undoubtedly, Vivek Ramaswamy is one of the hottest presidential aspirants in the race. The 37-year-old is known for his radical, blunt, and highly controversial opinion on national issues. One of them has stirred some outrage among Americans. 

Vivek Ramaswamy Speaking at a Republican Debate and Voting Booths in 1945
Source: thehill/X Wikipedia

In May 2023, the surprise Republican top contender announced a voting plan for young Americans. In his plan, young voters aged 18 to 24 would be subjected to civic tests to be eligible for voting. 

Vivek explained this plan in a post on his X (formerly Twitter) account. “I’m announcing my support for a constitutional amendment to raise the voting age from 18 to 25,” read a section of the post. 

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Vivek advocates that for young Americans from 18 to 24 to vote, they must pass a civic test. If they don’t succeed at the tests, they have the option of “6 months of military or first responder service.” 

The presidential hopeful had explained that the plan would help voters make more informed and accurate choices at the ballots. He also argues that the plan will solve the challenge of voter apathy amongst young voters. 

He had elaborated on the plan during a campaign event in Iowa. “It is a problem that young people don’t vote enough in this country,” Vivek began. “But if you make it something that you actually have to earn, you value it even more. It’s human nature and psychology,” he reasoned. 

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“We cannot solve the absence of a desire to serve our country – or to learn about the Constitution – by forcing young people to do so,” he wrote on his X account. 

But his plan has yet to go down well with many Americans. Notable among these are those with the 1960s voting rights struggle experience. 

During this era, they subjected black voters to literacy tests before voting. Despite the 15th Amendment providing the right to vote, Southern states still made black voters pass tests before they could cast their ballots. 

Regarding the nature of the civil rights era tests, Brent Taylor, social science coordinator at West Kentucky Community and Technical College, said they drew questions from history and the Constitution. She described the tests as difficult “even for someone who pays attention to these kinds of issues.” 

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Some of the questions were designed for the candidates to fail. According to 81-year-old Flonzie Brown-Wright, who took one of these tests back in 1964, some test questions were ridiculous. She recalled having to answer questions such as “How many feathers are in a chicken?” 

Carol Anderson, a 64-year-old professor at Emory University, described the anger felt by prospective black voters who wrote the tests. She had encountered an older woman who went through the experience.

“After standing in line for hours, being given a test that you know is absolutely rigged against you, that’s the simmering anger,” she said. 

However, Vivek will have to pull off a miracle to implement such a plan. The plan will require a constitutional amendment to effect. Any amendment will require the votes of two-thirds of both arms of the legislature and three-quarters of the state legislatures. Given the present political climate, that is almost impossible. 

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