Should We Lower the Voting Age? Yes.
Voting is power. We’ve seen how demographic groups that vote in large numbers — based on age, race/ethnicity, gender, income, geography — weld power over elected officials. Legislators — especially ones with an eye for re-election — pay more attention to those groups’ concerns and needs as they legislate. They want to ensure that those same voters return to the ballot box in the next election and re-elect them as their representative.
So, it makes sense that 16- and 17-year-olds living in the U.S. would like to also be a player in elections.
According to the U.S. Constitution’s 28th Amendment ratified in 1971, eligible voters must be 18 years old or older. Ratification of the 28th Amendment was the result of a grassroots campaign in the late 1960s which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. Twenty-eighth Amendment supporters argued that if 18 year olds could be drafted into military service, they should be able to select the policymakers who make those critical decisions. It was a wise rationale then as lowering the voting age to 16 is now.
Opponents may contend that 16- and 17-year-olds are not mature enough to vote or unable to make informed decisions. However, at 16 we allow them to drive in most states and make critical decisions about their future — selecting colleges or entering the workforce or military. They are often already taxpayers due to working while in high school.
Why shouldn’t they have a say in how taxpayer money is spent — on education, health care, defence — all issues that directly impact their lives at 16 and 17?
What better way for us to pass on the habit and civic duty of voting than by allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to start voting in their home communities instead of starting the voting process when they are more transient at 18 years old or older. Families go to the polling places together can foster civic duty and a voting tradition that could continue on into adulthood.
Adding an amendment on the U.S. Constitution is a long process, and this movement is at the very beginning of this process. While 16 and 17 year olds are not eligible to vote today that doesn’t mean they can’t be a part of the process.
- Talk about voting at home with your teens.
- Take your teenagers to the polling place with you or have them help you complete your absentee ballot.
- Show them the importance of voting by voting yourself.
It’s important for the future of the U.S. democracy that young people vote, and until we lower the voting age to welcome more young adults into our voting community, let’s do our part and demonstrate why voting matters by voting.
To learn more about the campaign to lower the voting age to 16, read the Vote16USA campaign white paper.