Raising the bar…by lowering it

Raising the bar...by lowering it

Voter turnout was 57.5% in the 2012 presidential election. It’s even lower in House elections. Over the years, American voter turnout has been much lower than that of other wealthy countries according to The Huffington Post.

But maybe we can raise the bar…by lowering it.

At the age of 16, the US begins to think of people as adults. In most states, 16 year olds can drive, work

unrestricted hours which means contributions to the workforce and taxes, and are tried for serious crimes as adults. It makes no sense, therefore, that 16 year olds are denied the most basic and arguably the most important right in any democratic society: the right to vote.

Austria, Argentina, Germany, and the United Kingdom have extended voting rights to people at 16 either for national, regional, or local elections.

Students and the youth of America are, by definition, the future of the country. By allowing them to vote, you give them the experience needed to be responsible voters.

Some might say that 16 year olds are not mature enough to handle the responsibility of voting. They don’t have the experience or the knowledge to vote. Moreover, they would just vote for whomever their parents told them to.

The argument that children can’t form opinions for themselves is unoriginal. It was the same argument used to say that african americans shouldn’t vote and women shouldn’t vote: their cultural ‘superiors’ would make them vote a certain way.

Plus, this is the information age. Countless news articles, debates, interviews, blogs, and podcasts are a click away. This means 16 year olds are much more informed about the world around them than most every civilizations and age group in history.

As mentioned earlier, there is an unusual lack of voter turnout in the US. Maybe this is due to a degree of cynicism or apathy in the current voting arena.

Who better to reinvigorate the country than the a group of energetic, optimistic, interested teens?

Youth have their own interests, distinct from those that make up the rest of the population, yet they are underrepresented by their government.

It’s no coincidence that young people, the ones who are denied the fundamental right of voting, make up the largest demographic of the impoverished in the US..

Children (18 and under) currently represent 27% of the poor in this country while the elderly (65+)  only make up 12%. However, we spends 10 times more on each poor senior.

It’s only logical, though. The elderly have the highest voter turnout, they’ve been voting for the longest time, they control political groups; they vote. They must be pandered to by politicians on Capitol Hill or many of those same politicians will lose their secured seats in office.

No one panders to the young, however. Without a political voice, this otherwise capable section of the electorate is left to the whims of a voting body that does not represent them, that will directly affect their lives in only a few years, and creates systems they will be forced to live with once they do reach the voting age.

School system improvements, environmental preservation, and prison system reforms: all issues that have a much more drastic impact on this demographic than any other.

There is an additional argument has been around since the founding of this nation: no taxation without representation. It used to be that only white, male, property owners could vote. Over the years, this nation has hacked away at the absurd concept of denying the right to vote because of what a person looks like, where they come from, and who they were as a person.

These excuses for shirking the right to vote from some have now given way to a society where more people can vote, but only few actually take advantage of these liberties.

Voters often complain about the inaccessibility of polling stations and the difficulty of commuting to them. When students aged 16 to 18 already attend schools every day, getting them to vote would be a trivial matter of installing the booths on-campus. Schools are already used as public voting stations, so why can’t the students who attend them be part of it?

Additionally, the age of 16 makes much more sense from a logical standpoint.

Voter turnout between the ages of 18-24 is increasing. Events like Rock The Vote focus entirely on this demographic. Imagine how many more will turn out if the voting age is lowered. And we need a larger turnout.

Voter turnout over the years

Hooking someone with a habit young means they are more likely to stick to it. If citizens start voting at a younger age, they will be more likely to carry that practice with them as they grow older.

We need to introduce these younger voters in to the voting pool in order to influence policies that will positively affect our country’s future.

The problems of the 21st century require 21st century voters.