Should The Voting Age be Lowered?

By: PENNY MACIAS

For many people, lowering the voting age is a new concept. However, it might be something that can further better the government and also get citizens in touch with it. There are many reasons why lowering the voting age is a sound and ethical choice.

Young people are expected to have adult responsibilities, but are denied the same rights.

People under the age of 18 are still active members of the society. The youth are still affected by political issues as much as everyone else, and are also expected to have many responsibilities, such as bring income to their household, work a job without limits on hours, and pay taxes on their income. Under the age of 18, you can also  conduct cancer research, become published authors, teach a graduate-level course in nuclear physics, and win the Nobel prize. If all of these things are possible, certainly people are capable of voting, right?

In some states, many people under the age of 18 are allowed to drive. Is voting like driving? Does it require impulse and quick decision making? If so, neuroscience suggests that we should raise the voting age to the mid-twenties, when most adults’ brains have finished maturing and are far from adolescence, a development stage that is, according to three researchers at Cornell University, “characterized by suboptimal decisions and actions that are associated with an increased incidence of unintentional injuries, violence, substance abuse, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases.” However, according to Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, the director of The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University, voting isn’t an activity we do when the mind is “hot.” “You aren’t presented with candidates one second before you have to make a decision,” she says. Instead, you rely on the part of the brain responsible for dispassionate reasoning, which matures, on average, in the mid-teens.

Research has shown that 16 and 17 year olds have the knowledge and capability to vote. A study comparing the qualities associated with voting, such as civic knowledge, political skills, and political interest, among citizens 18 and older and citizens below 18 found no significant differences between 16 year olds and those above age 18. In Renewing Democracy in Young America, psychology professors Daniel Hart and James Youniss use standardized test scores and survey data to argue that, “On measures of civic knowledge, political interest, political efficacy [believing that voting matters], and participation in public life, [volunteering and contacting elected officials], 16-year-olds, on average, are obtaining scores similar to those of adults.” Some critics say that 16-year-olds aren’t mature enough to vote. On the other hand, many argue that 16-year-olds should have a stake in laws that affect them.

In conclusion, the main reason many believe that people under the age of 18 should wait until they are older to vote, because they are either not mature enough or don’t have enough life experience when they are already expected to have many adult responsibilities. The youth should be able to have a say in laws that affect them. They go to school, so why not let them vote on school policy? A lot of them also have jobs where they’re taxed on their earnings without having any voting power to affect change in their government.

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