Wed12022020

Last updateWed, 18 Nov 2020 1pm

Opinion

The Voting Age

default article imageAside from the highly anticipated presidential election, one of the most interesting issues voted on in the 2020 election was San Francisco’s proposition to lower the voting age in local elections to 16. This idea is gaining momentum around the world in order to bolster voter turnout. A slim majority of 51 percent of voters in San Francisco agreed with this proposition, but it did not get enough votes to be passed.

While often thought of as long standing and deep-rooted, the 18-year-old voting age is actually a relatively new concept in America—the 26th Amendment, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, was only ratified by President Nixon in 1971. The 26th Amendment was passed after a youth movement gained steam as a reaction to the Vietnam War draft where many young men did not even have the right to vote for the politicians who sent them to fight.

Today, the rising involvement of youth in activism movements ranging from LGBTQ+ to immigration issues to the Black Lives Matter Movement begs us to ask if lowering the voting age to 16 might be a good idea. The strongest argument against lowering the voting age is that 16-year-olds are not mature enough to vote. Most of them are, after all, only barely halfway through high school.

 A study conducted in Norway after several municipalities lowered the local voting age to 16 found that 16-year-olds are less mature than 18-year-olds and become no more mature when given the right to vote. However, a study conducted in Austria, one of the few countries with a national voting age of 16, showed that lowering the voting age increased political interest among youth, which is certainly a positive step toward creating politically engaged adults.

Voter turnout in the United States is infamously low with only 60.1 percent of eligible voters voting in 2016, according to USA Today. A movement to elect anyone other than Donald Trump helped break voter turnout records in 2020, but it is too early to tell whether the high voter turnout of this year will become a trend or if Americans will once again become too comfortable with the current political climate to feel the need to partake in their democracy.

Voting education must be emphasized if the voting age is lowered to 16. Teaching voting as a responsibility while high school students are being taught the issues surrounding the given election may permanently increase the voter turnout and allow our government to better represent its entire people. 

The massive 2020 voter turnout, not to mention the fact that Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by almost 3 million votes, proves that Trump’s 2016 victory did not reflect what most Americans actually wanted. If the voting age is lowered and voting is emphasized as a serious responsibility, we may be able to permanently increase the voter turnout and elect a government that more closely represents what matters to all Americans.

 

PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University

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