Lower America's Legal Voting age to 16

The following editorial was originally published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday, March 2nd as part of the “Raise Your Hand” column in the Insight section.

By Marli Mason, Waiākea High School • Class of 2024

The right to vote is one of the greatest privileges of democracy. Yet, over time, many Americans have felt the diminishing value of their vote, leading to a sense of reduced voter efficacy. Many people feel that their vote does not make a difference in the outcome of an election, which has led them to abstain from voting. Simultaneously, the internet has granted younger people access to learn about a plethora of issues, from local to global. As such, the voting age should be lowered to 16 years of age to include eager individuals in the decision-making process.

According to the Pew Research Center, only two-thirds of America’s voting-age population voted in the 2020 presidential election. Of those who voted, young adults had the lowest voter turnout. Conversations with peers have taught me that many young people don’t believe their vote would make a difference and do not have an expressed interest in voting. It is essential to emphasize

the significance of each individual’s vote and mobilize them to play a role in shaping politics, rather than resign them to feel helpless.

Lowering the voting age to 16 will help to make voting a habit for young people. With more familiarity at a younger age, individuals will be more inclined to vote in future elections, improving overall voter turnout. Additionally, it communicates the importance of civic engagement and fosters active participation in democracy.

Research shows that individuals who participate in the initial election they are eligible for are inclined to vote consistently in the subsequent elections, demonstrating the habitual nature of voting behavior. Along with lowering the voting age, it would be beneficial to provide more in-depth education on political and social issues and information about candidates.

At 16, individuals are already affected by various political issues. As Vote16USA highlights, 16-year-olds pay taxes if they work, can drive, and can even be tried in adult courts. They share many experiences with constituents over 18 and should have a say in selecting their representatives.

Some may argue that 16-year-olds lack the maturity to make informed voting decisions. They may believe that they do not know enough about politics and the government to make informed decisions. However, many young people are more than capable of forming independent opinions and understanding political topics. They deserve the opportunity to make their opinions and values known through voting.

In today’s world, social media has become a tool for individuals to explore the policies of multiple political parties. With this, they can find what ideologies best align with their values, rather than being solely influenced by older generations for guidance.

The citizens of the United States are not just made up of adults. The youth are the future of the country and should have a stake in the government. Additionally, teenagers already have a developed understanding of what politics are and its effect on them. Allowing younger people into the voting booth could influence the outcome of an election and reflect the needs of future generations more effectively.

As the next cycle of elections arrives, the younger generation’s voice will play a pivotal role in determining leadership. Future leadership will most directly impact young people. Fostering a sense of voter efficacy from an early age can inspire greater civic engagement and ensure a more representative democracy.

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