By Connor Rempe
On March 15th, much of the student population walked out of Arlington High School and stood in front of the main doors to protest our country’s current gun control regulations. Student leaders made speeches and presented statistics in an attempt to grab the attention of politicians across the country. However, there was one speech in particular that stood out. Freshman Genevieve Baldwin used her time at the podium to warn this country’s leaders that our time is coming. Soon we will be able to vote and it is clear that our generation has a strong and powerful voice. She said that we had always been told by our parents that “someday you’ll be old enough” and that now our “someday was coming.” While this message might be inspiring, I could only think one thing while listening to it: “Why wait for someday? Why can’t someday be now?” We were told “someday” as kids, but if there is one thing I am certain of it is that the people on the steps of the high school that day were not children in the traditional sense. We were engaged in the democratic process more than most adults and ready to make a change. The leadership of youth in today’s America has proven that teens shouldn’t be considered apathetic children but rather a driving force in shaping the future. Furthermore, in order to allow teens to influence the laws and lawmakers that very much influence them, the legal voting age ought to be lowered to 16 years old.
The debate over voting age has pervaded U.S. history as early as 1942 and most notably during the Vietnam War. During WWII, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt lowered the minimum draft age from 21 to 18, and while at the time voting ages were decided by states, across the board the legal age to vote was 21. 18-year-olds were conscripted without any say in the process of their government. “Old enough to fight, Old enough to Vote” became a slogan for the fight for voting rights and in 1942 Georgia lowered the minimum age to vote in state and local elections to 18. Many states followed suit. Congress, however, did not until similar circumstances arose in the Vietnam war and moved them to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Today, the situation is similar; a group of empowered, young people want a say in the important decisions that affect their lives.
Those who oppose lowering the minimum voting age often question why 16-year-olds deserve to be given the vote. David Davenport of Forbes feels that until 16-year-olds pay taxes or can be asked to participate in the military, they should not be able to dictate the actions of those who do. Additionally, Davenport says, support for lowering the age in the government by senators such as Nancy Pelosi is purely partisan. He says that until teens have to pay taxes, they are more frequently liberal-leaning. Ultimately, Davenport claims, until we have “evidence that we need or even want 16-year olds voting,” there is no reason to make a change.
While these concerns are valid, they rely on misconceptions about the motivations of teenagers. People, let alone teenagers, don’t vote for only themselves. Studies by the American Psychological Association show that by the age of 16 teens can gather and process information, as well as weigh pros and cons in low-pressure situations, such as voting. Teens think about many different angles when making decisions, so the fact that they themselves don’t pay taxes doesn’t disqualify them from being able to vote based on what they think is best for the country and their families. Secondly, we want 16-year-olds voting because they have unique and educated opinions, which are always necessary for a good democracy. In order for that voice to be heard to its fullest extent, the voting age ought to be lowered.
Today’s youth have demonstrated that they are ready and willing to participate in the democratic process. In order for their voice to not only be heard but also affect real change, they need to be given the most powerful tool in our government today: the ability to vote.
Davenport, David. “No, We Shouldn’t Lower The Voting Age To 16.” Forbes, 25 May 2016, http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2016/05/25/no-we-shouldnt-lower-the-voting-age-to-16/#7e382a55531e. Accessed 26 Apr. 2018.
History.com Staff. “The 26th Amendment.” History.com, A+E Networks, 2010, http://www.history.com/topics/the-26th-amendment. Accessed 26 Apr. 2018.
Steinberg, Laurence. “Why We Should Lower the Voting Age to 16.” The New York Times, 2 Mar. 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/02/opinion/sunday/voting-age-school-shootings.html. Accessed 26 Apr. 2018.