By: Marcus Lund
Why can’t I vote? This question has plagued many of my politically interested peers recently, especially as our political climate has begun affecting us more. Because policies affect us just as much as someone 2 years older, why shouldn’t we be able to vote on them?
Firstly, one study found that 16-year-olds are just as civically knowledgeable as older voters, especially 18-year-olds. The study found that on “measures of civic knowledge, political skills, political efficacy, and tolerance”, 16-year-olds scored much the same. Other social scientists also claim that 16-year-olds have well established “cold-cognition” skills, which are used to make hard decisions like those needed in voting.
Another pro to lowering of the voting age is the inevitable higher voter turnout. Not only would it add a higher population to the available voters, but it would also propagate lifelong voting habits. With more young voters, a “trickle up” effect could also occur, with those voters’ parents and guardians also going out to vote.
Lowering the voter age also comes with a set of undeniable cons. The first is general maturity. With two less years of knowledge and experience, many experts argue that 16-year-olds will be unequipped to make the correct decisions when voting. Younger voters’ lack of maturity also comes with a higher capacity to be influenced by others, which makes them less likely to make decisions not influenced by outside voices.
Adding to the arguments against the lowering of the voting age includes the fact that voters aged 18-19 have extremely low voter turnout. Only 15% of those eligible in that age group voted in the 2014 election. This suggests that young voters are not ready to vote until later in life.
Lowering the voting age, while an interesting proposal, has both positive and negative aspects. As young people continue to push for it, I wonder what the government will decide on the matter.
For more information, please visit:
- “American Sixteen- and Seventeen-Year-Olds Are Ready to Vote” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
- “Why We Should Lower the Voting Age to 16” Nytimes.com
- “Trickle Up Political Socialization: The Impact of Kids Voting USA on Voter Turnout in Kansas” State Politics and Policy Quarterly
- “Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2014: Reported Voting and Registration, by Sex and Single Years of Age: November 2014” Census.gov