Youth voices on the rise

High-schoolers’ opinions on lowering the national voting age to 16
In recent years, the topic of lowering the national voting age has sparked debates across the United States. Young people have been at the forefront of the discussion, sharing their unique perspectives and opinions on voting ages. “[I want to vote because] I should be able to make decisions about myself, about my education, and about my rights,” sophomore Yein Ahn said.
In recent years, the topic of lowering the national voting age has sparked debates across the United States. Young people have been at the forefront of the discussion, sharing their unique perspectives and opinions on voting ages. “[I want to vote because] I should be able to make decisions about myself, about my education, and about my rights,” sophomore Yein Ahn said.
Ruthvi Tadakamalla
Pros

Turning sixteen can be one of the biggest milestones for a teen. By their 16th birthday, a teen can drive a car, pay taxes, work without restrictions, become emancipated and drop out of high school. If 16-year-olds can make such life-changing decisions, shouldn’t they also have the right to vote?

“[Teens] should be able to vote because they can think for themselves. [They] might have an opinion that other people might not have. [Voting lets] your opinions out and [lets you] say what you want to say,” senior Insang Lee said.

Teens should have a say in government and politicians whose ideas affect them directly. For example, when the Supreme Court eliminated affirmative action in colleges, teens across the country were affected. Because they are about to enter college, a crucial stage in their lives, teens should have been able to make an informed decision about their future, but the national voting age, 18, prevents them from doing so. 

“[16-year-olds] should be able to vote because they’re becoming adults, so they have their own opinions. Kids these days are mature enough to know what they want. Kids these days spend a lot of their time on social media and they know what’s going on around the world,” freshman Om Uppara said. 

Not only do teens have their own ideas about potential changes to society, but they have also constantly demonstrated interest in implementing them. In the past, teens have organized and participated in protests relating to policy change. Greta Thunberg and Marley Dias are famous teenage changemakers who have been active on issues like climate change and increasing diversity in literacy. 

“I wish I could vote. There are issues that kids are dealing with and understand better than adults who aren’t going through the same things.  We are affected by laws, [such as the removal of] affirmative action. If we’re 18, we would be in college, so we can’t do anything about it then. It would be helpful [to vote] earlier about things that are going to impact us later,” senior Amy Rein said.

While some may argue that teens aren’t mature enough to vote because of their physical and emotional experiences, there are many teens who are passionate and educated about current issues. There is a common misconception that teens don’t have a fully developed brain, so they shouldn’t be able to vote. However, their cold cognition — the ability to act in pressure-less situations — is as developed as an adult’s cold cognition. 

In addition, students are often more impacted by certain national and local issues compared to their adult counterparts. In 2022, there were 51 shootings in high schools, establishing an implied need for teens to have a say in gun laws. School shootings can impact a student’s education as well as cause trauma for the rest of their lives. If students had a say in gun laws and politicians on various platforms, then it is reasonable to assume that politicians would make students a priority to keep their votes.

“As a high schooler, gun laws [are important]. It’s more applicable to me as a high schooler rather than if I was an 18-year-old voting because [while] it’s still a big issue, I would no longer be in school having to think about that,” junior Sadie Burgess said. 

Adults may have more experiences than teens, but there are situations that this generation faces that make them better equipped to make decisions about their lives. 

“[I would vote on] education and [topics] that involve children or students. Sometimes parents don’t understand everything that kids go through. They can’t [always] make the [right] decisions,” sophomore Yein Ahn said. “[Teens] are members of society and should have a choice in decisions about us.”

It is vital that 16-year-olds are an active part of the government. Teens will not only have their voices heard, but they will increase the national voter turnout, making our country a powerful republic. It is vital to increase voter turnout because it ensures that everyone’s voices are heard and allows the ability to select the correct presidential candidate based on our nation’s wants.

Even though the United States Constitution acknowledges that only people aged 18 or higher can vote, times have changed as new problems have arisen, including issues of education, guns and drugs. All of these issues heavily affect teens. Thus, naturally, 16-year-olds should be given the right to vote. High school students have drafted bills and had them signed into law in the past, but they weren’t allowed to vote on them. Now, there are local efforts to give teens the right to vote as well as national efforts. Vote16USA — a movement that has galvanized youth and adult-led organizations around the country to promote young voters — advocates for 16-year-olds to have their voice heard on a national stage.  Young people are clearly demonstrating an interest in electing their representatives and voting on legislation, so they can get involved with the campaign or find other ways to get involved to fight for their rights. 

It’s important to focus on topics that young people are passionate about, for they are the next generation of adults and voters. Clearly, high schoolers have demonstrated that they are passionate and resilient about voting, so it is vital that the U.S. government considers lowering the national voting age to 16 years.

Cons

While many 16 and 17-year-olds naturally want the right to vote for issues they care about, the average American voter overwhelmingly disagrees. In 2019, a poll found that 84% of registered voters were against giving 16-year-olds the right to vote. Now, it seems students feel the same way.

“[The voting age] is pretty good at 18 because all adults should vote,” senior Michael Emerson said. “Usually 18-year-olds have some government class by the time they turn 18. That’s the age of adulthood and [when] you’re out of school.”

Although teenagers are capable of many responsibilities, they are still ultimately dependent on their parents. Teenagers are not able to sign contracts for themselves or consume alcohol. Most 16-year-olds do not own their own homes, nor do they do their own taxes. Thus, for adult voters who are directly impacted by matters like taxation, it would be unfair to have election results skewed by a teenage demographic that does not experience the issues at hand. Why should teenagers be allowed to vote on issues that they do not have the life experience to evaluate? 

Although there are some issues teenagers may want to vote on, their political beliefs are often heavily influenced by those of their parents, especially in politically active households. Studies have shown that children raised in highly political households are the likely to change their beliefs after leaving their homes and joining new social networks or consuming new media. While political socialization and influences will always exist, in many households, giving teenagers suffrage would be equivalent to giving their parents additional votes.

​​”I don’t even think 18-year-olds should be able to vote. They should move [the voting age] back to 21 or 25 because then that’s when you’re brain’s really developed. It’s crazy because [at] 18, you’re still in high school [and] you don’t have your high school diploma yet,” junior Mia Lauer said. 

Although lowering the voting age may seem appealing to teenage activists, it is a widely unpopular proposition. And, even if given the opportunity, most teenagers would probably not exercise suffrage. In the United States, turnout for voters ages 18-29 has historically been lower than other age groups, which can be partly attributed to their lack of education on the candidates, inexperience with the voting process and preference for more active forms of political engagement, such as protesting or signing petitions.

Perhaps our efforts would be better spent decreasing barriers among those who can already vote. Nationwide, states are disenfranchising voters through strict voter ID laws and cuts to voting access. Fixating on an unpopular idea like teenage suffrage takes attention away from the issue we should be focusing on: making sure mature adults with experience beyond high school have a voice in our country. 

 

4
View Comments (4)
About the Contributors
Ruthvi Tadakamalla, Social Media Manager
Pronouns: she/her Grade: 10 Years on staff: 2 What is your favorite piece of literature? "To Kill a Mockingbird." Who is your hero? My mom. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Cheez-its.
Serena Liu, Editor-in-Chief
Pronouns: she/her Grade: 12 Years on staff: 3 What is your favorite piece of literature? Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut Who is your hero? My mom! She’s the most incredible person I know and also she reads my stories so she might see this. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Mac & cheese all the way.
Donate to Pathfinder
$175
$800
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of Parkway West High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to Pathfinder
$175
$800
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (4)

Please use your own name and keep your comments respectful!
All Pathfinder Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • I

    InayaOct 20, 2023 at 9:16 am

    This is so good!

    Reply
  • L

    Lauren HolcombOct 18, 2023 at 11:46 am

    this is so good you guys are both geniuses. ur writing puts leo tolstoy to shame. george orwell is SOBBING

    Reply
    • W

      Will GonsiorNov 2, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      George Orwell was sobbing the moment he realized he wasn’t coming close to matching his mentor’s “Brave New World…”

      … but this is a nail in the coffin for sure

      Reply
  • L

    Lauren HolcombOct 18, 2023 at 11:44 am

    ATTTEEEEEEEEEEE

    Reply