Voting Age Should Remain As Is


The Editorial Board

A movement to allow 16-year-olds to vote in federal elections has picked up speed after cities such as Takoma Park and Hyattsville, Maryland, have expanded youth involvement in municipal politics. However, re-drawing the line at a federal level, a line that has been in place for 45 years, is neither necessary nor logical.

According to Abigail Baird, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Vassar College, 16-year-olds haven’t had enough world experiences to make fully informed decisions. Most haven’t owned their own house or purchased their own insurance or held a full-time job. Although they may be tasting spoonfuls of independence, the drinking age is still 21, and the age when teens may drive a car without any conditions has now increased to 17 or 18 by most state laws.

16-year-olds are not even permitted to watch R rated movies, yet advocates want to place federal decisions in their hands?

Groups such as FairVote, which campaigns for lowering the voting age, argue that the general adult demographic includes just as many ignorant people as the overall teenage population. They say youth are as immature as many adults. However, if 16 and 17-year-olds are just as uninformed as the current electorate, is it really logical to open the voting booths to more uniformed voters?

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi says the voting age should be lowered “because when kids are in school, they’re so interested, they’re so engaged.” Pelosi, however, may be overestimating teenage zeal for American democracy.

The 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress civics assessment shows that current high school students lack basic American history knowledge. When 12th grade students were asked about the fundamentals of democratic government and responsibilities of citizenship, only 24 percent were rated proficient enough to have the intellectual skills essential for informed, effective, and responsible citizenship.

Teenagers are entitled to freedom of speech, so allow them to speak their minds in community meetings or join in protests or political clubs. Grant them a taste of civic involvement that will lead them to become future educated voters. Voting at 18 is a symbolic cut off that signifies adult responsibility, and there is no compelling reason to change that.