The very idea of America is freedom and opportunity for everybody. Amongst these is the most valued legal right within a democracy: the right to vote. However, an unfortunate reality is that the majority of the people ages 16-17 cannot (“Age and Sex Composition in the United States: 2011”). With the ever falling number of participants in political votes due to the event of the generation of the baby boomers dying out, and the lack of political interest in the younger age groups (18-29). The legal voting age should be reduced to16 years of age, nationwide and it should be adopted amongst the amendments.
The Electoral Commission’s inquiry into the voting age was motivated in part by its concern with declining participation rates in the UK elections and in particular, the low participation of young people in politics. Although this isn’t to be believed to be a pivotal reason for changing the voting age, if participation rates were to go up as a result, this would count in favor of lowering it. Granting sixteen and seventeen-year olds were to exercise their right extended to them at low rates then this is a reason—though again not a irrefutable reason—not to lower the voting age (Chan, and Clayton 535).
According to Curtis Gans, the director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, “The voting age was set at 18 because that’s the age at which people could be drafted and die for their country. They don’t have enough life experience or history and don’t know the issues in enough detail” (Weiser par. 26). There are other ways in which to get life experience that don’t involve going to war. Does that make a person who has asthma and mentally handicapped, and therefore unable to participate in the war effort even if they desired to do so, inexperienced and unknowledgeable about the issue in enough detail to satisfy Mr.
Gans? The real question is who has the right to judge and how it is going to be judged. Some arguments in favor of lowering the voting the age would be those that demand consistency in the treatment of voting and other social and economic rights; sixteen-year-olds are adequately mature enough to vote; they appeal to public demand or public opinion; argument that positive effects on political participation will follow from lowering the voting age (Chan, and Clayton 533).
Some members of society argue that if the pleasure of voting rights should vary with political maturity, then society should exclude individuals from the franchise on the basis of competence rather than age. An age-based franchise, it is said, illogically differentiates against young people who possess the capacities, motivation, and understanding that are relevant to the act of voting to a higher degree than some older people (Chan, and Clayton 539). Voting at the age of 16 is similar to other rights enjoyed at sixteen, such as the right to have a full time job, to have sex and beget children and so on.
If sixteen-year-olds are judged sufficiently mature to make freely the momentous decision to beget children, should they not also have the right to influence less momentous decisions about political matters (Chan, and Clayton 541)? When allocating rights and duties to individuals they claim, like cases should be treated alike. It is unjust to deprive a sixteen-year-old of the vote when an older individual enjoys that privilege without possessing anymore political competence (Chan, and Clayton 539). Should we go as far as to make voters take a competency test to prove that they are “mature” enough to vote?
No, because if we started to do that we wouldn’t have made it as far as ratifying the amendments so both women and African-Americans could vote as well. Yet societies reasoning for preventing the incompetent from voting are ‘what if’ it their votes have a negative impact, not only on their bad choices, but also on their legal rights and duties that apply to others (Chan, and Clayton 539). Fig. 1. depicts the gradual fall in trend of the voting habits of the residents of the United States (“Voting and Registration”).
How can society not be worried about the voting trends? If the law was extended to the sixteen-year olds you would see these statistics improve greatly over time. The Electoral Commission feels like the short term effect of enfranchising the sixteen year-olds would be a decline in turnout, because evidence suggests that the young in the US are less likely to vote than older people. Yet, in the long-term the amount of sixteen year olds would actually exercise their right to vote, and become more active in society (Chan, and Clayton 535).
Fig 2. Shows that 18 is really the worst time to set the age at because that’s when teenagers’ lives are in turmoil—moving away for college, stressing out over graduation, getting a job, and maybe joining the armed forces—so why not set the age to 16 when their loves aren’t so hectic (“Voting and Registration) (Weiser par. 7). Although in older generations splits began to appear as some population groups started to retreat, while support continued to grow among their counter parts.
Youth became progressively more favorable to extending the voting age, while their elders peaked and began withdrawing their support (Erskine 482). As the executive director of the National Youth Right Association, Alex Koroknay-Palicz emphasized, “Sixteen-year olds can work, pay taxes, drive, and be charged as adults for crime—even be sentenced to death. If that isn’t old, or ‘mature’ enough for the older generations than what will please society” (Weiser par 11-12)? A study done by the Trinity College of Hartford, Connecticut has proved that voting is a habit that has to start early.
If people don’t start out as voters they’re less likely to ever vote (Weiser par. 8). Yale University also performed another study, although it was more of a randomized field experiment, simply stated is a hypothesis that was later proven to be true, it reads in part: “An alternative explanation holds that the act of voting is self-reinforcing. When people abstain from voting, their subsequent proclivity for voting declines; when they vote, they become more likely to vote again. Voting and abstention, in other words, are habit forming.
Attitudes and the environment help explain whether voting habits take root, but one’s pattern of behavior itself has an independent effect on subsequent behavior” (Gerber, Green, and et al 540). If sixteen-year-olds wear allowed voting they would only be doing the future a favor by raising the upcoming generations in an environment where they would be in a voting, and henceforth habit forming situation. There would no longer be a problem where there are not enough voters because there would always be children in a voting household.
If the members of society truly want to believe that the United States of America is the land of equality and perfect democracy, we need to make this a reality through equal rights to all. The benefits of reducing the voting age to sixteen years of age are that it will increase voting outcome in the future, people will become more educated and active in their local and state politics. We need to change our views on who is mature enough and who is not. The only way that we can change this is to become more open minded. If people can change in the past so can we.
Chan, Tak Wing, and Matthew Clayton. “Should the Voting Age be Lowered to Sixteen? Normal and Empirical Considerations.” Political Studies 54.3 (2006): 533-558. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Dec 2012. Erskine, Hazel. “The Polls: The Politics of Age .” Public Opinion Quarterly 35.3 (1971): 482-95. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 Dec 2012. Gerber, Alan S., Donald P. Green, et al. “Voting May be Habit-Forming: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment.” American Journal of Political Science 47.3 (2003): 540-550. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Dec 2012. United States. United States Census Bureau. Voting and Registration. 2010. Web. United States. United States Department of Commerce. Age and Sex Composition in the United States: 2011. Washington D.C.: , 2011. Web. Weiser, Carl. “Should voting age fall to 16?.” Enquirer Washington Bureau [Washington] 08 APR 2004, n. pag. Web. 19 Dec. 2012.