Should the minimum voting age be lowered?
The rise of social movements like Black Lives Matter and the fight against climate change, has seen a surge of young people engaging themselves politically at a rate that hadn’t been witnessed for decades, leaving many wondering if youth shouldn’t be able to vote before they reach maturity
Rise of the Issue
The minimum voting age was lowered fifty years ago under Richard Nixon’s administration as part of the anti-war movement’s advocacy for young people to have full political representation amid the draft. Over the decades, many politicians and activists have inquired whether citizens under 18 should have the right to vote and whether the age of 16 years old wouldn’t be more appropriate as a minimum voting age in the U.S.
Those in favor of lowering the voting age believe that doing so would spark more civic and political engagement among youth, thereby strengthening democracy itself, while those against are not convinced that young people have the maturity, the experience, or motivation to take their new voting right seriously.
The Fourteenth Amendment is Adopted
Those 21 years of age or older are allowed to vote.
Georgia Pioneers Youth Voting Rights
Georgia becomes the first state to lower the voting age from 21 to 18.
The Voting Age Drops to 18
President Nixon certifies the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.
The Training Wheels For Citizenship Amendment Is Proposed
California State Senator John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) proposed an amendment that would establish a system granting those under 18 years old a portion of a vote depending on their age.
Supporters point to the engagement young people already display in the political process, through social movements for example, while opponents focus on the more widespread tendency of youth for political apathy.
Opponents say young citizens are not mature or experienced enough yet to be entrusted with the responsibilities that come with voting. Supporters argue that knowledgeability and a sense of responsibility have nothing to do with one’s age.
Advocates for lowering the minimum voting age believe that it is important for young people to understand that they will be the ones building the society of tomorrow, when opponents think it is up to the previous generations’ responsibility to create a better future for the youth.
Being young doesn’t necessarily equate a lack of maturity.
Many people under 18 also have “adult” responsibilities, such as being the primary caregiver and making substantial financial contributions to their households.
Allowing people to vote at an earlier age creates healthy civic habits.
Lowering the voting age would be beneficial at a time in life when people are still developing and are most influenced by their external environment. It would already instill the importance of civic engagement at a young age.
Voting rights for young people are already in place in some circumstances.
Several states already allow 17-year-olds to vote in state and presidential primary elections if they turn 18 before the general election.
Allowing young people to vote provides them with fair representation.
Teens are already permitted to hold a job and manage other life responsibilities, making it sensible to also give them voting rights.
Lowering the minimum voting age should follow other minimum age requirements.
Many states permit children to be charged as adults when they commit a crime. It is logically consistent with granting youth the responsibility of voting if they must take responsibility for their actions as minors.
Young people might not be mature enough to vote.
16- and 17-year-olds have not yet finished maturing either physically or mentally, which leads many to think that they may not possess sufficient understanding of the realities of life to participate in voting.
Lowering the minimum voting age may depress voter turnout even more.
Younger voters tend to participate in elections at considerably lower rates than older generations. Allowing youth to participate in federal elections would likely lower the national turnout further.
Lowering the voting age could shift electoral patterns.
Including more people in the electorate, especially those from the same age category, could shift electoral patterns and results towards the ideals of the younger generation, which feels threatening to some.
Lowering voting age requirements could call other age-related restrictions into question.
Age limits on things like the purchase of alcohol, driving, and sitting on a jury could potentially be subject to challenges if the minimum age to vote were lowered.
The teens' environment could exert too much influence on their opinions.
Young people are still very much influenced by their environment’s behaviors, standards, and perspectives, meaning the votes of these young teens could likely resemble that of their parents’ and community.