In case you are unaware, the last few years have brought out a new generation of young activists and politically-interested youth. There are many kids who are active in pursuing justice, equality, environmental health, and more. It’s amazing to see these young minds at work in opening people's’ eyes and starting a dialogue about needed change. These young adults believe that they are old enough to start voting.
Photo: Element5 Digital on Unsplash
Appealing to Reason
If you are not a teenager anymore, I’m sure you can think back (hopefully fondly) to those times. Most of us could agree that at that age, we thought we knew everything. We thought we were so mature and wise. Granted, some teens are far more mature than their peers. Some are knowledgeable and would be able to navigate the world pretty well. But for the most part, that isn’t the case. That is not to say that teens aren’t smart, but it is to say that they do not have the experience or vast understanding of how the world works. Heck, some 18 year-olds don’t either. However, the law requires that you are 18 years of age or going to turn eighteen within that voting year. The passion to want to vote is obviously there in some of these youth. The president does have an impact on their lives, but also not as much as the rest of the world. A 16 year-old does not (generally) have to worry about taxes, bills, and the effects on businesses, to name only a fraction of what the president can impact while he is in office. And back to that part about the law. It can be hard to follow laws and rules, but they are there for a good reason. Just like you must wait until you are 21 to drink, you must wait until you’re 18 to vote. Not to mention the legal age to vote is in the constitution.
On the other hand, there are pros to lowering the legal age to vote. Some of those things would be having our youth more involved in politics and subjects that are crucial in life. If the voting age were lowered, there should be mandatory classes to teach kids about the government, laws, systems, and the history behind it all. It is amazing to see how many people are ignorant to basic political information, and this kind of class would not only benefit the 16 year-old. That information would carry out throughout the life of that individual. The only problem with this is that it would have to be an entirely objective course. This is extremely hard to achieve, especially in public schools. Every state is different, but public schools tend to lean too far right or too far left, which means the child could be taught something completely contrary to the truth. We already know how the media makes presidents look. Some of you may be screaming, “and that’s a good thing!” but it really isn’t. It is far too simple and naive to believe that someone is 100% good or bad. The children would have to be taught that people can have both good and bad ideas, both good and bad qualities. Right now, that does not seem probable.
A Bit of History
There is much to say about this country and voting laws. The Fifteenth Amendment in 1870 allowed African Americans to vote. The Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 allowed women to vote. Arguing that children should vote isn’t too hard to comprehend, then, considering how many people groups had to fights for their rights. The only difference is that it made no sense for women and African Americans to not vote. Not only did it not make sense, but it was done for racist and sexist reasons. There is no prejudice against youth that would prohibit them from voting. It is simply the idea that a child is not knowledgeable enough to hold that kind of responsibility. Some 18 year-olds aren’t either, but we’ll let bygones be bygones.
Contrary to what you might know or believe, the legal age to vote actually has changed. Prior to 1971, you had to be 21 to vote. The age was 21 simply because it was what people were used to. When the Constitution was written, some of the laws that were written down were based off of older customs the people were used to following. This is one of those cases and so we can’t know for sure why 21 was the standard age to vote. Come 1971, there was a change to the voting age. The reason there was a petition for change was because the drafting age was changed. During World War II, the age to be drafted was lowered to 18. People were confused as to why the draft age was lowered and not the age to vote. After all, one of the areas the president oversees is military affair. These 18 year-olds would have been in the hands of men who could decide their fate, yet the men in military were unable to make a decision as to who could decide their fate. That made little sense, and so people coined the phrase, “old enough to fight, old enough to vote.” The country sided with the movement and the voting age was lowered.
The age to vote is a very tricky subject because there are pros and cons to each side. Regardless of anything, it is important to keep encouraging our youth to be active and engaged in politics and elections. It may not make a huge impact on them now, but getting them used to it will help in the future.
Alizah Acosta is a passionate writer from the cold corner of America, better known as the Northeast. She recently graduated from Clarks Summit University with a bachelors degree. She uses the experiences and skills she has acquired and puts them in her work. Writing is not just a career, but a form of communication and an art. Writing is about showing this art form in a conveying and meaningful way.