Lowering The Voting Age To 16

Hear me out: as a former 16-year-old, I am fully aware that high school students are not necessarily known for their good-decision making or reasoning skills. Research tells us that the human brain doesn't fully develop until the age of 25, and most people aren't by any means at their cognitive peak when they reach legal adulthood at age 18. This seems to be the main argument behind keeping the voting age where it is; if 18-year-olds aren't technically mature enough to make decisions about government, why on Earth should we willingly enfranchise anyone younger?

This argument, though valid in its own respect, fails to take into account two factors: the civic responsibilities taken on by many 16-year-olds, and the benefits of widening our national voting pool. Denying the vote to members of a demographic who have just started to be affected by the government's decisions is a firm step in the wrong direction for a couple of reasons.

First, 16 seems to be the magic age when many teenagers seek their first job. With this new responsibility comes taxes, a cornerstone of American politics. Disenfranchising any taxpayer is, by definition, taxation without representation (and it goes without saying that this is a practice generally frowned upon in the context of American history). Teenagers also have a stake in other governmental decisions; they are on the front lines of the gun control debate, given the increasing number of school shootings in recent years, and they will be the ones who are left to deal with the climate change crisis when older generations die off. Decisions currently being made by the government affect everyone in America, and lowering the voting age by just two years will allow a broader demographic to have a say in who governs them.

This widened demographic could prove overwhelmingly beneficial to the rest of America, too. America has one of the lowest voter turnouts of the world's developed nations, with the high-profile 2018 midterm elections attracting only 49% of eligible voters. Lowering the voting age to 16 would be a major step in improving this statistic at the federal level, an idea previously supported by voter turnout in local elections where 16-year-olds could vote. As voter turnout is a common gauge of a government's health, it's crucial to our democracy that we do anything to bring out more voters; lowering the voting age just two years is an easy way to do that.

Encouraging good voting habits at a younger age is one of the best things we can do for the future of our citizens and of our country. Young people may not be known for having the best sense, but the fact remains that they have a major stake in decisions being made by the government right now. By lowering the voting age just two years, we can set up young Americans for a lifetime of civic participation, increase voter turnout, and ensure the health of our democracy for generations to come.

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