Why Not Sixteen?


Win McNamee

Students from Montgomery Blair High School marching in support of gun reform legislation. Photo credit: www.huffingtonpost.com

Janet Liu, Staff Writer

Almost a year ago on February 14, a mass shooting took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Victims of the shooting initiated a campaign against gun violence and advocated for the voting age to be lowered to sixteen. As a result, the debate over whether sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds are responsible enough to vote in presidential elections resurfaced. It is clear that teenagers should be granted the right to vote. They are old enough to make educated choices and, just like eighteen-year-olds, are influenced regularly by government policies.

Critics of lowering the voting age center their argument around maturity level. They claim that the number eighteen represents adulthood: eighteen-year-olds have faced the draft, can attend college, many live alone, and have the ability to pay for their own expenses. On the other hand, the number sixteen apparently means parental support and a lack of life experience. Hence, young people are thought to be unfamiliar with topics discussed in the elections, and therefore, are incapable of making informed choices on national issues. Furthermore, opponents argue that sixteen-year-olds do not have a strong stance on politics. Some believe that since most students don’t learn basic civics until their senior year, they can be easily manipulated by the media and be more emotional than rational.

However, these arguments are not fully justified. Sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds are capable of making informed decisions. When teenagers are in calm situations and take the time to deliberate, they reason logically with facts. According to the American Psychological Association, this ability, also known as cold cognition, is fully developed before teenagers evince emotional and social maturity. By the time adolescents reach the age of sixteen, they will be able to weigh the costs and benefits of their options and analyze information to make educated choices on topics like gun violence.

Moreover, the statement that sixteen-year-olds do not have their own political views is a misconception. Recent protests led by students, such as March for Our Lives, not only demonstrated the capacity of young people but also their strong opinions on politics. In addition, many sixteen-year-olds have the same responsibility as eighteen-year-olds: they work, pay taxes, take care of family members, and drive. Economic policies affect teenagers and will continue to influence them greatly. Therefore, it is safe to say most teens have a general idea of the type of laws they want to have in place.

Sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds deserve the right to vote. Political topics regarding gun control, racial equality, education, and environmental safety are all issues that teens are impacted by. Despite the argument that this age group does not take government-related courses until their senior year, they are still able to form their arguments based on articles they read on the internet and from posts on social media. Our government needs to lower the voting age so that teens can have a voice on topics that affect them.


Photo credit: huffingtonpost.com