Should the voting age be lowered?

Adam Perez and Colin Sumner

NO

by Adam Perez

On July 1, 1971, the United States government, under the Nixon Administration ratified the 26th amendment which established a voting age of 18. They decreased this from 21 during the Vietnam War era where 18-year-old men were being drafted into the war without having the right to vote. Ever since that time in history, the voting age has remained the same and proved to be the perfect number for the benefit of the country as a whole.  As a result, it would be a completely incorrect decision to change or lower this age as that would compromise the integrity of the U.S. elections and cause harm to the future of the country. 

One reason why the voting age should remain the same is the role that anyone below 18 plays in American society. A person who is 17 years old does not have the same responsibilities as a legal adult. One example where this is seen is with taxation. Anyone below 18 is seen as a dependent and is not responsible for their own taxes. In addition, many other tasks such as working and entering contracts require either special documentation or parental consent. If they cannot do certain tasks without parental consent, it does not make sense to grant them the right to vote without that same consent. As a result of these restrictions, many of the issues pressed by representatives do not apply to people below the age of 18. 

Another reason why the voting age should remain 18 is the level of education that this age group possesses. In a study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, only 36 percent of Americans 18 years or older could name all three branches of government correctly. Most 16-year-olds have less education than 18-year-olds, so it would make no sense to grant them the right to vote if they are incapable of understanding the basics of our government. In addition, people below the age of 18 are not capable of making their own political decisions. In a study by Gallup in 2005, 71% of teens hold identical political beliefs to their parents. This demonstrates that they are still too young to make independent and informed decisions. Voting based off of parental beliefs in elections would undermine the legitimacy and potentially harm the future of the government.

If the voting age is changed to 16, the country would suffer as a whole and the legitimacy of elections would be eliminated. Sixteen-year-olds do not have the experience in life or education to cast an informed vote that has a major impact on the country. In addition, most issues currently in government do not directly affect them, so allowing them to vote could change decisions that do not even pertain to them. Eighteen years old is the perfect age for voting as many new responsibilities are thrust upon them and most issues debated in government pertain to them as adults.


YES

By Colin Sumner

America is a land of many things, including pride, freedom and justice. People have fought for the right to vote in America since the first ballot was cast. We should consider the following: lowering the voting age to 16 whether it be for municipal, state or federal elections. 

According to the Census Bureau, out of all Americans who are of the voting age, only 53.4 percent cast their ballot in the 2018 midterm elections. In 2016, a presidential election cycle, that number only jumped a few points to 61.4 percent of people of the voting age actually voting. There is a problem in this country: voter turnout. 

Consider the effectiveness of forming habits at a younger age, for example brushing your teeth or even tying your shoes. This same idea could be applied to voting. A study published by Alan S. Gerber in the American Journal of Political Science found that voting in a previous election increases your chances of voting in the next election as well. The idea is that if young people were exposed to the political process and taught to vote at an earlier age, they would be more inclined to participate in our democracy regularly into adulthood. 

“Those who pay taxes should have a voice in our democracy,” Congressman Michael Burgess (R-TX) said, adding that, “I support policies that encourage work and this could be part of the conversation.” 

Teens are found working a whole variety of jobs and yes there are some under the table transactions, however, a lot of 16 and 17-year-olds are working and paying taxes. I paid taxes for three or four years before officially registering to vote. 

In New Jersey, a 16-year-old can give consent, is allowed to work with minimal restrictions, and is not forced to attend education anymore. So why shouldn’t that same 16-year-old get to vote as well? 

In 2018, Tim Male who was a former city council member of Takoma Park, MD, submitted a brief to the Council of the District of Columbia regarding a bill lowering the voting age. In it Male wrote, “how do you tell a constituent who wants to vote, whose taken civics, held a job and paid taxes that it would somehow be inappropriate for them to vote because of their age?”

In 2013, Takoma Park, MD became the first town to enact legislation that gave 16 and 17-year-olds within the town the right to vote in their municipal elections. Male added in his brief that his city, “now has the benefit of seeing what has happened through three general elections and one special election. I think it’s fair to say that the results have exceeded our expectations.” 

If the voting age was lowered, it is true there would be many moving parts that would be difficult to work out, but that’s the worst reason not to do something. 

In 2019, a bill was introduced in the New York state legislature that lowered the voting age to 16 state-wide. It is considered the effect of having uneducated voters, a fear of some. Therefore, the legislation included a civic education requirement for graduation. In addition, the class gave them the chance to register to vote within school. The benefit is that you have citizens who are well informed down the road. Ones who are enthused and willing to participate. 

Why should your voice matter more than another tax-paying, contributing citizen? Consider how younger people within your community getting involved would look, would it really be that bad of a thing?