Should the Voting Age Be Lowered?
As younger people across the country have protested and pressured legislators for actions on gun violence largely in response to the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, the question of when teens will finally receive the ability to have an electoral voice has resurfaced. In 1970, Congress passed a slew of amendments to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of which actually lowered the age from 21 to 18. So, why not lower the voting age again?
Today, many believe the voting age is too high. Citizens 16 and older deserve a stake in laws which affect them, like educational policies. Student activists around the country have demonstrated that tons of teenagers have extremely well thought out positions on multiple political issues. 16 and 17 year olds are equally affected by same policies than older voters are. They are expected to follow the law, but have no say in making it. In addition, lowering the voting age will help increase voter turnout. Voting is a habit, people who vote in one elections will most likely vote in the next. Lowering the voting age will create new, younger voters, who tend to have stronger roots to their community, often living in the same community for many years.
It is important to note that knowledge and experience are not criteria for voting eligibility. Because it can be considered discriminatory, knowledge of literacy tests are not used anywhere in the United States to determine eligibility for voting. However, Congress has tried to determine the amount of knowledge a potential voter might need. Even then, they concluded in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that a sixth-grade education provided “sufficient literacy, comprehension, and intelligence to vote in any election.” Later on, when renewing the Act in 1975, the Senate Judiciary Committee stated, “It is difficult to see why citizens who cannot read or write should be prevented from participating in decisions that directly affect their environment.” The idea that 16 and 17 year olds aren't educated enough and therefore should not be able to vote is unethical and invalid. Realistically, there are really no wrong votes when voting for a leader. In a democracy, we don’t deny people the right to vote because we think they will make a bad vote. Many people already believe that some voters are complete bigots and are entirely ignorant of the issues who vote for candidates based on the wrong interests, so why do we hold 16 and 17 year olds to higher standards?
Nearly all arguments used against lowering the voting age can be used against adults. Most critics argue that teenagers aren't mature enough or don’t have enough life experience. The argument that certain groups of people don’t have the knowledge/maturity to vote was used against creating voting rights for people who do not own land, woman, and servants throughout history.
In addition, the argument that they are too young can easily be refuted by the example set by younger people across the country advocating against gun rights. The idea that 16 and 17 year olds aren't mature enough is not true. They clearly are, and the Parkland survivors are proving it. Overall, the voting age should clearly be lowered to 16.