Part of the beauty of American democracy is that it deems voting a right, not a privilege. However, as of late, many advocate the expansion of this right to include a new generation of voters: 16- and 17-year-olds. As a politically involved and informed 16-year-old myself, it would seem natural for me to want the right to vote at this point in my life. Yet, I know the majority of 16-year-olds are not as politically informed nor as interested in politics as I am.
Referencing the relatively low voter turnouts, advocates claim lowering the voting age would surge election numbers and benefit our democracy by recruiting lifelong voters. “I think it’s really important to capture kids when they are in high school when they are interested in all of this, when they are learning about government, to be able to vote,” Nancy Pelosi, Democrat Speaker of the House, said.
However, as the famous expression goes, it’s about quality, not quantity. More voters in the pool seems like a good idea until factoring in that most of these new voters are uninformed and uninterested, psychologically immature and lacking real life experience.
Another issue advocates of a reduced voting age bring up is that many 16- and 17-year-olds pay taxes but don’t have any say in who their elected officials are. Even though there are some employed minors who pay taxes, 70.3% of 16- and 17-year-olds do not even hold jobs, meaning the grand majority pays no taxes. This provides little basis for voting rights.
Moreso, a lack in taxpayers of this age proffers an even less compelling reason for suffrage since much of voting affects taxes. Electing officials who each have very distinct positions on taxes has a great effect on the general taxpayer. Therefore, since the majority of minors pay no taxes, it makes no sense to put them in such a position of power.
As far as mental maturity for voting goes, scientifically speaking, teens 16 and older have finished long-term decision making development, even though immediate decision making does not finish developing until approximately 25. However, even if a teen has adequate judgment, how can they make a decision on a subject they have no experience in? People have no real perspective on issues until major life events happen like when they get their first paycheck or have their first apartment — all things most 16- and 17-year-olds have yet to do.
During the Vietnam War, the sentiment that “if a person is old enough to fight, they are old enough to vote” arose, sparking the enactment of the Twenty-sixth Amendment. This was a fair claim with the draft, but since then, nothing has changed to suddenly incorporate 16- and 17-year-olds into the Constitution. At this age, people are still learning the world around them and how to function in life. Voting should not be thrust upon such a young, developing group.