The Lion's Tale

Teenagers are not ready to vote

photo by Ben Robinson

photo by Ben Robinson

Oren Minsk, Reporter

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Political polarization and teenage activism have both become increasingly common in the US today, which raises the question of whether the federal voting age should be lowered to 16. The cities of Takoma Park and Hyattsville, MD, have already done so for municipal elections, prompting a discussion of whether the age should be changed nationwide. Though I am a politically active teenager who counts down the years until I can vote, I do not believe that it is reasonable to lower the voting age to 16.

Teenagers are more easily swayed by those around them compared to older people, which is partially because they lack the political knowledge necessary to form their own political opinions. However, the regions of the brain involved in planning, reasoning, and judgment are also simply not as developed at age 16 as they are for 18-year-olds. Teenagers may not be able to fully comprehend the consequences of their choices, including who or what they might vote for.

This lack of brain development makes a teenager more vulnerable to the influence of peers, parents and even celebrities. If teenagers are going to vote for a certain candidate just because they were endorsed by their favorite celebrity or a friend of theirs, they should not be voting.

Teenagers are also inevitably influenced to an extent by their parents’ political opinions, and therefore may side with a candidate that their parents support without knowing the reasoning behind their parents’ political views. Therefore, allowing teenagers to vote could essentially give their parents an extra vote, which would undermine democratic principles. 18-year-olds, however, have more developed brains and are less susceptible to persuasion.  

Giving teenagers the right to vote could also have some other major implications. Federally, an 18-year-old can purchase a firearm, as they are a legal adult. Lowering the voting age to 16 could also lead to lowering other age requirements like ones to purchase a firearm to 16, to be a legal adult and to drink, none of which should happen.

With the number of less experienced and less qualified people in the government increasing, it is now more important than ever for voters to have knowledge of key issues and current events before going to the voting booth.

According to Reuters, though, “28 percent of Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 said they pay almost no attention to the news every day. Another 32 percent said they pay only casual attention to one news source a day.” Simply put, most teenagers either have only one source of news or do not follow the news at all.  This means that in general, teenagers have little interest in politics and are not informed enough on important issues in order to cast an informed ballot.

A common argument for lowering the federal voting age is that it would increase voter turnout, which is a big problem in the United States. The problem with this is where do you stop? Are we going to lower the voting age to 12 years old to increase voter turnout rate next?

In order to solve the problem of voter turnout, we must simply make it easier for registered voters to actually vote. The Pew Research Center released a survey of registered and eligible voters who did not vote. 35% of them said that they had conflicts with school or work. So, if we want to solve the voter turnout issue, we should lengthen election hours so that more people can get to the polls before and after work or allow people to vote by mail.

The fact of the matter is that we can’t have uninterested teenagers deciding who should run the country, and the problems lowering the voting age would seem to solve can be fixed in other more efficient ways.

 

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