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Too Young to Vote?

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Too Young to Vote?

Kaitlyn Kittle, Staff

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With Election Day last month, the question of lowering the voting age has emerged once again. Everyone has an opinion on something, that’s a fact, but is it fair that only people ages 18 and up get a chance to use their opinions to shape our country?

 

The voting age in America is currently 18 years old. It was lowered from 21 in 1971 because people saw the double standard in drafting 18-year-olds to fight in the Vietnam War without giving them a say in how the country is run.

 

It should be lowered again.

 

Young people are affected by the government’s decisions as much as older people. Elected officials decide on policies for schools, gun control laws and LGBT+ rights. It can’t be argued that the laws that are put into place don’t affect teens.

 

So why don’t they have a voice? A few states such as Alaska, Kansas, and Mississippi have lowered the voting age to 17, but not all of them.  

 

Young people can do amazing things, such as becoming a published author, teaching a graduate level class on Nuclear Physics, running their own schools, and winning a Nobel Prize. Many teenagers have adult responsibilities, jobs, and are running businesses, or taking care of sick relatives. Yet, they are still denied the rights that those over 18 have. Certainly with all of this, 16-year-olds should be able to shape their own future.

 

You might say that younger people have no interest in politics, but that’s false. Teens not old enough to vote are running (and winning) elections for mayor and state representative. In Takoma Park, Maryland, they lowered the voting age to 16, and voters under 18 had a turnout four times higher than those over 18.

 

Of course, people claim that the voting age should not be lowered because they do not have enough knowledge, life experience, or political knowledge to make good decisions. However, there is no criteria for experience and very little for knowledge needed to vote.

 

To quote the Voting Rights Act of 1965, “…any person who has not been adjudged an incompetent and who has completed the sixth grade in a public school in, or a private school accredited by, any State or territory, the District of Columbia, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico where instruction is carried on predominantly in the English language, possesses sufficient literacy, comprehension, and intelligence to vote in any election.”

 

In other words, you only need a 6th-grade education and a basic understanding of the English language to be knowledgeable enough to vote.

 

As for political knowledge, studies show that 16-year-olds have adequate political knowledge to make informed decisions. In fact, 16-year-old Americans score higher in areas related to civic knowledge than Americans in their 20s.

 

Many people younger than 18, myself included, believe that they should have a say in our own government.

 

We should get that chance.

 

When the U.S. decided to lower the voting age to 18, it was  the quickest constitutional amendment to ever be ratified. Today, lowering the voting age still has continuous wide support. Nearly half of the states have had legislation to lower their voting age lowered, and several towns have successfully lowered the age to 16. More than 25 countries have a voting age lower than 18, and many others are looking to do the same.

 

To quote Rebecca Tilson, “If 16-year-olds are old enough to drink the water polluted by the industries that you regulate, if 16-year-olds are old enough to breathe the air ruined by garbage burners that government built, if 16-year-olds are old enough to walk on the streets made unsafe by terrible drugs and crime policies, if 16-year-olds are old enough to live in poverty in the richest country in the world, if 16-year-olds are old enough to get sick in a country with the worst public health-care programs in the world, and if 16-year-olds are old enough to attend school districts that you underfunded, then 16-year-olds are old enough to play a part in making them better.”

 

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