cartoon by Brianna Tang
Should the voting age be lowered to 16?
October 19, 2020
Man on campus
“I do think the voting age should be lowered to 16 with the exception that minors should be required to pass a test that ensures they are politically informed and engaged mainly because many high school students these days are very politically active, and I think many are educated enough to take part in voting!”一Kiva Vakharia, sophomore
“I think that the voting age should be lowered. I’ve noticed that underaged people that want to vote, tend to work hard to stay educated. People who advocate for lowering the voting age won’t just vote for the heck of it; they’ll really take their time to formulate their decisions. It also makes sense to let younger people vote for the sake of their future.”一Lily Mattey, sophomore
“We are more educated than some citizens because [sixteen-year-olds] learn about a lot of the national issues in school. Some citizens have not visited these issues in a long time, so that makes us eligible to vote.”一Serafine Martinez, junior
“I think this could be a good idea but it’s dependent on the precautions that are going to be taken. From my experience, many teenagers have looked into politics and have early exposure to political matters. Still, I know many teens would not take voting seriously so some sort of limitation, one such as a provisional license for a driver but instead for voting, to have control over whether or not lowering the age would be what is best for the future.”一Sarah Nedderson, junior
“I do not think it should. Some people are not interested in politics and their political responsibilities at such an age. Not to mention, at the age of 16, one is still a minor and may be easily influenced by parents and peers. I believe that knowledge and wisdom are attained through experience with maturity and time, and so it wouldn’t hurt to wait until 18 to vote.”一Ruth Hsieh, senior
Pro: The voting age should be lowered.
In 1971, Congress passed the 21st amendment which lowered the voting age to 18. More recently, California’s Proposition 18 was proposed to allow 17-year-olds to vote in the Primary and Secondary elections if they turn 18 by the upcoming general election.
San Francisco proposed lowering the voting age to 16 in May for the upcoming election. Many officials oppose the idea, however, there are four cities in Maryland that grant their teens to vote in the municipal elections. Many nations like Austria and Argentina have passed bills that have lowered their voting age. The United States should follow in their footsteps and lower their voting age to 16.
Teenagers start gaining responsibilities when they turn 16. Many drive a car, have a job, pay taxes and are tried as an adult in court. More than 250,000 teenagers under 18 are tried in court because they are seen as responsible, therefore, society expects them to face the same consequences as an adult, according to the National Youths Rights Association. If teens are deemed responsible enough to behave as adults when driving a vehicle, working and facing similar consequences, then they should be allowed to vote.
Younger citizens are equally affected by government policies on gun violence, climate change and decisions about schools, however, they have no voice to express their opinion regarding those matters. Teens like Thandiwe Abdullah, a 16-year-old and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Vanguard, and Anya Dillard, a 17-year-old who organized a protest, have started action against issues that concern them and their future, according to an article by Elle. Furthermore, teens all over the nation have attended and organized such protests, stood in the front lines, and educated people regarding political issues, according to the New York Times. Teens are consistently involved in politics because the issues they advocate for will have a significant impact on their future, therefore, they should have the right to vote for their future.
Some may argue that teens are uninformed. However, by actively participating in movements such as Women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, support and rights for LGBTQIA+ community, and climate change, teens are proving that they are willing to educate themselves regarding these issues to protest for their rights. This proves that teens are not completely ignorant of political issues like some government officials claim they are. Additionally, half of Americans don’t mention politics more than once a week, according to PewResearch. If adults don’t talk about these political issues more than teens do, then why should teens be deemed uninformed and not given the right to vote based on their current knowledge?
The voting age should be lowered because teens are seen as responsible enough to partake in activities considered mature such as driving, facing similar consequences of adults, and working. Teens are also passionately involved in political issues, but without a medium to express their voice through, such as the right for 16-year-olds to vote, their efforts are insignificant in government decisions.
Aanya is a junior and Ad Manager for El Vaquero. This is her second year on staff
Con: The voting age should not be lowered.
The brain of a 16 year old isn’t fully developed. On average, brain development doesn’t stop until mid to early 20’s. Even at 18, views are still forming. At 16, people are ruled by their amygdala, an area of the brain involved in emotions and not by the prefrontal cortex, an area involved in rational thinking and decision making.
Major American cities, like San Francisco, have recently been considering lowering its voting age to 16. While the government aims to increase voter turn-out, kids under the age of 18 simply aren’t mature enough to participate in elections. Sixteen and 17-year-olds lack political knowledge and life experience needed to participate in elections, therefore should not participate in the elections.
Sixteen-year-olds aren’t informed enough to make such decisions that can affect the rest of the country. Here at Irvine High, students do not take government classes until they are seniors, so it shouldn’t be expected for 16-year-olds to have the political knowledge to vote. According to Annenberg Public Policy Center, even American adults struggle with political knowledge with only 36% being able to name the three branches of government. Lowering the voting age to 16 is not the right solution to have young people involved with politics.
At the age of 16 and 17, young individuals lack enough life-experience to be given the responsibility of voting. The legal drinking age was increased from 18 to 21, and the age when kids may drive a car without any conditions has now increased to 17 or 18 by most state laws. In other words, the law tends to move toward greater maturity to ensure responsible governance.
It can be argued that many 16-year-olds are just as intellectually mature as their 18-year-old counterparts. However, if intellectual maturity is what we’re seeking, then the voting age should really be raised rather than lowered. According to Social scientists Tak Wing Chan, Ph.D., and Matthew Clayton, DPhil, 16 and 17-year-olds would not be competent voters because “research in neuroscience suggests that the brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex, is still undergoing major reconstruction and development during the teenage years.” They added that the prefrontal cortex is what enables us to weigh dilemmas, balance trade-offs and, in short, make reasonable decisions in politics. Based on this evidence, shouldn’t the conversation be about raising the voting age rather than lowering it?
Sixteen-year-olds are allowed to drive because they are at the right age to start learning about it and the responsibilities it entails, but they are by no means experienced. Teen brains are still developing, and lack full adult capabilities for long-term planning and thoughtful decision-making. Just because 16-year-olds can not vote, doesn’t mean the government doesn’t care about what they think; there are numerous ways to interact with politicians that allow them to get their point across, like signing petitions and protesting.
Ikbal is a writer and photographer for El Vaquero and this is her second year on staff.