Lowering the Voting Age

Jade Bromley, Ellie Carter

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Rogue News staff or of Ashland High School.

For Lowering the Voting Age (Jade Bromley):

In 2008, Obama was elected the first black president of the United States of America. Even as an eight-year-old, I could understand the importance of that election. It was a true progression of us as a people, and I wanted to be a part of it. I had believed that the 2008 election was the most important election of my lifetime, but this year I’m proven wrong. The 2016 election is the most important election my generation has seen, and as a sixteen year-old I’m not eligible to participate. It has never felt so urgent that I be able to vote. It is my future that is being determined, my rights being debated, my country, and my president. Why shouldn’t I be able to have a say in who leads it?
People who are against lowering the voting age argue that sixteen-year-olds are not mature enough to make such a decision. We spend too much time on the Internet, are easily influenced, and our brains aren’t finished developing. However, maturity is not accurately measured by age. A senior can vote and a junior can’t, but each can be as mature or immature as the other. There is not enough of a significant difference between the ages to use that as a reason to not lower the voting age. Although those that say your brain is not fully developed at sixteen are correct, the truth is the average brain isn’t fully developed until the age of twenty-five, but that doesn’t mean that we should revert the voting age back to twenty-five or that eighteen year-olds aren’t capable of making clear headed decisions.
Teenagers spend about two and a half to seven hours a day on various social media sites. The downside of that is we are less tuned into real life, but we also have a specific connection to each other over the Internet. It is the platform for teens to voice their opinions and have debates on the political state of the world. Furthermore, just as teenagers can be easily influenced and uneducated about important issues, so can adults. On the news, we are presented with adults who, when asked when they’re against Clinton, merely say she lies, but can’t give any examples nor concrete proof. Trump’s economic promises are interpreted as economically sound, even though 370 economists have said that his claims are baseless and would result in an even deeper dept. These so called “mature adults” are making decisions based on the media influence and biased sources. Though some teenagers can be influenced by the media, we are constantly absorbing knowledge from all sides. Our classroom environment educates us on the logistics of government and allows us to form our own opinion.
What is the mark of maturity? What determines someone’s right to participate in their government? Is it a set number of years or a desire to shape their future and an understanding of the consequences? As a junior I am actively shaping my future. I’m thinking about my life and the opportunities I want to have, and I feel the best time to change the system could be now, so that when I get there it’s better. The person who leads our country is certainly a big part of that. For the next four years, my rights and opportunities have been decided by others, people who may not even be here to feel the effects. As a citizen of this country, I should have a say in the leader of the four most crucial years of my adult life.

Against Lowering the Voting Age (Ellie Carter):

With coverage of the 2016 election on every news station and social media platform for the past year and a half, it’s hard to not form opinions, especially as a high school student. Although I’d consider myself relatively politically engaged and up-to-date on many current events, I’ve found that this election has served as a sort of crash course for my friends and me––to watch debates, test our opinions and form our own conclusions. For some of us it feels like we were ready to vote in this crucial election. Nevertheless, lowering the voting age may call into question other federal age restrictions and fail to change what it intends to––getting young people active in politics.
Those that favor lowering the voting age to sixteen argue that eighteen is an arbitrary measurement of adulthood. They say there aren’t enough differences between those two years to rule out lowering the voting age. It’s true that eighteen is a completely arbitrary number when it comes to voting, but it’s also the arbitrary number we’ve picked in the United States to determine when citizens become adults. On your eighteenth birthday, you can not only cast a ballot, but you can sign a contract, get sued, make a will, and enlist for the army. If there’s no reason to not lower the voting age to sixteen, what’s to save us from lowering the drafting age as well? After all, the voting age as it exists now stems from the passage of the 26th amendment of 1971, when eighteen-year-old men being drafted into the army demanded the voting age be lowered from twenty-one to eighteen. If you support lowering of the voting age because there’s no good enough reason not to, consider all the other regulations that would have to shift back as well.
Some sixteen-year-olds seek “youth suffrage” because they believe that their generation isn’t being represented in local or national politics. They say that if the youth demographic was allowed more votes, we might see benefits for younger people just beginning to interact with their government––or increased political interest as their classroom studies begin to overlap with civil duty. In fact, the eighteen to twenty-year-old voter demographic has always had the lowest voter turnout of any age range in any year. The truth is that young people tend not to vote, no matter what generation, and there’s no evidence to support the claim that 16-year-olds would vote more than their older counterparts. If young people want their voices heard, their first step should not be adding more voters to their demographic, but getting existing voters to vote.
Furthermore, voting is not the only way to become politically involved. There’s no restriction on age for those volunteering on election day or on behalf of a campaign, and if there is an issue that youth feel passionate about there’s no reason they can’t make their voices heard to those that are voting. It’s incredibly important to use this election to test yourself on the skills you’ll need to vote in a few years––and to practice getting your news from credible sources, rather than from Facebook or Snapchat. Read measures, watch debates, follow current events and form your own opinion––so that when you can vote in two or four years, you’re prepared to make a decision you’re proud of.