Should the Voting Age be Lowered to 16?

Advocates for lowering the voting age say that it can engage the youth in politics, raise voter turnout, and allow teenagers to weigh in on issues that directly affect them. (Enzo Filangeri / for Lincoln Lion Tales)

Advocates for lowering the voting age say that it can engage the youth in politics, raise voter turnout, and allow teenagers to weigh in on issues that directly affect them. (Enzo Filangeri / for Lincoln Lion Tales)

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According to Suburban Stats, 805,456 teenagers of ages 16 and 17 live in California as of 2017. Many are striving to give voting rights to these 805,456 current ineligible voters by lowering the voting age from 18 to 16.

Oddly enough, a survey taken by juniors at Lincoln High School in San Jose showed that only 45.8% of students believe that they are qualified to vote at a national scale, and roughly only 40% believe they should be able to vote as a result.

In 2015 a non-partisan group from New York by the name of Generation Citizen launched a campaign called Vote16USA. Its goal is to engage the youth in politics and civic education on a local scale. They make the argument that lowering the voting age will improve voter turnout, allow teenagers to weigh in on issues that directly affect them, and push schools to improve civic education. However, Opponents say that teenagers are not mature or informed enough to vote and that Vote16USA is just a partisan push to get more liberals voting.

Scott Warren, the executive director of Generation Citizen says, “given the general malaise that faces this country’s political process right now, this is a way to get young people actually excited.” He is directly referring to the 2014 midterm elections where there was the lowest voter turnout for federal elections since 1942. In addition to the low voter turnout, the 2014 election experienced the lowest percentage of voters from ages 18-29. Mr. Warren along with many high school students believe that a lower voting age will encourage teens to vote more and carry this habit into their adulthood.

On the scientific side of things, critics of lowering the voting age note that teenagers’ brains are not yet fully developed until their twenties. Neurologist Amit Shelat from Teaneck, New Jersey says “good judgment isn’t something they can excel in, at least not yet.”

Many opponents argue that Teenagers will just be shadowing their parents and their political views when it comes to politics. Jillian Wu, a 17-year-old high school senior in San Francisco and a member of the Vote16USA board refutes and says, “I have my own environment that I grew up in, my own experiences that lead me to make the choices that I do.” She remarks that her parents are not politically active so their views can not influence her decisions.

Mrs. Wu is not the only one who believes that children don’t automatically conform to their parents political views. A study recently appeared in an issue of The American Sociological Review showing that over 50% of children in the United States either incorrectly identify or reject their parents’ party affiliation.

Still opponents persist that democrats are only trying to lower the voting age in order to get more liberal folks in office. California representative Nancy Pelosi is a devout democrat. She is also an advocate of lowering the voting age. Mark Tapson, the editor in chief of Truth Revolt, a conservative website, said that Ms. Pelosi was trying to “rope in young voters” who may be more inclined to vote with popular culture idols. He is referring to a teenager’s tendency to side with someone who might be more funny or someone who they can relate too. Tapson remarks that these people tend to be liberal. “When they see, for example, that Barack Obama slow jams with Jimmy Fallon or hangs with Jay Z and Beyoncé,” Mr. Tapson said, “many 16-year-olds feel a connection with him not because of his policies necessarily but because that makes him cool.”

On March 5 of 2018, a hand full of Abraham Lincoln High School students walked to City Hall to join the movement supporting a Clean Dream Act, saving TPS, and condemning ICE activity in the Bay Area. A large number of students contributed to this movement to make a change and be civically active. However there were others who took advantage of this walkout to skip school. While many students were showing great maturity and participation in local politics, others did not take this incident seriously. This is what many opponents fear should the voting age be lowered.

The phrase “Taxation Without Representation,” refers to the unique circumstance that District of Columbia residents face, in which they must pay federal income tax but cannot elect members of Congress. Many argue that teenagers of ages 16 and 17 are facing this same situation. 17 year old Joseph Jackson from Richmond, California ponders the question, “teenagers can drive, work, pay taxes and be tried in adult court for some offenses, so why can’t they vote?”

Sources:

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