Should the U.S. lower the voting age to 16? | The Tylt
Should the U.S. lower the voting age to 16?
In March 2019, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi reaffirmed her support of lowering the voting age. According to the Hill, Pelosi believes high school kids are the most civically engaged and should be allowed to jump into politics while they are still enthusiastic about it.
"I myself have always been for lowering the voting age to 16," Pelosi said. "I think it's really important to capture kids when they're in high school, when they're interested in all of this, when they're learning about government, to be able to vote."
Pelosi's comments Thursday echoed those she has made previously, including in a 2015 New York Times interview in which the Speaker said she was "all for" lowering the voting age.
Pelosi told the Times that she wanted to expand voter access to 16 and 17-year-olds “because when kids are in school, they’re so interested, they’re so engaged.”
Laurence Steinberg, a psychology professor at Temple University, wrote in a New York Times op-ed that people who start voting earlier are more likely to continue voting.
Why is higher turnout among 16- and 17-year-olds so important? Because there is evidence that people who don’t vote the first time they are eligible are less likely to vote regularly in the future. Considering that people between 18 and 24 have the lowest voter turnout of any age group in the United States (a country that has one of the lowest rates of voter turnout in the developed world), allowing people to begin voting at an age at which they are more likely to vote might increase future turnout at all ages.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley recently presented a bill in Congress that would lower the voting age. Per Teen Vogue:
“Congresswoman Pressley has stood witness to deep and meaningful levels of engagement in policy and our political processes by 16- and 17-year-olds. Young people across the country have mobilized, marched, and protested in support of important issues like gun control, climate change, school safety, and social injustice,” a fact sheet from Pressley’s office reads. “At 16 years old, young people can work, pay taxes and contribute to the economy. It is beyond appropriate that we extend an opportunity for young people to play a role in electing our Representatives both in the halls of Congress and the White House.”
Constitutional law expert Michael Morley told PBS the arguments used to lower the voting age to 18 do not translate to lowering it to 16.
“You had the notion that 18 was already adulthood in several other contexts,” such as facing the draft, establishing households, and starting families. But Morley doesn’t necessarily think those arguments apply to 16-year-olds, who in most cases are still legally required to attend school and generally depend on parental support.
Other critics believe teens are not mature enough to be trusted with the right to vote as their brains are not yet fully developed. David Davenport wrote in a Forbes column:
If it is a question of maturity, researchers generally agree that the brain is still developing until the mid-20s, with moral reasoning and abstract thought coming later in the cycle than previously thought. Perhaps it should also be a question of having a real stake in the process—such as serving in the military (age 18, or 17 with parental consent) or writing a check to the government to pay your taxes. Or, how about requiring younger voters to pass the citizenship test as an incentive and qualifier, tying civic engagement with civic education?