A recent New York Times op-ed discussed whether it would be a good idea to lower the voting age to 16. High school sophomore Julia Falcinelli wrote a response piece that we love. If this is any indication of the thoughtfulness of today’s high school students, lowering the voting age seems like a great idea.
Read it here.
In such a chaotic political climate, it is important to think about where the power lies. Who truly has a say in the direction this country goes and why? One thing is for certain: the power does not lie in the hands of people my age. Despite the passion we have and the lengths we are willing to go in order to ensure our voices are heard, without the right to vote, our impact can only go so far.
I had never really formed an opinion on voting age. I had occasionally heard people refer to the idea of lowering it, but it had never felt like a possibility to me. Lowering the voting age seems like a valid and logical possibility. As someone who spends every day around sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds, I think I have a fairly good idea of the areas in which they are competent and the areas in which they fall short, and in terms of politics, I think they are aware, engaged and capable enough to vote. Many teens I know are more informed and knowledgeable about politics than a lot of adults are. I would trust sixteen-year-olds in this country to make sound decisions in the voting booth, and I am hopeful that one day they may be allowed to do so.
In my life, I see a lot of teens make smart, informed decisions and also bad spontaneous choices, so the idea of cold and hot cognition makes sense to me. I do agree with the article that without a doubt being able to vote would fall into the category of cold cognition. Sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds I know take politics and current events very seriously and aren’t embarrassed to show that they’ve put a lot of thought into these topics. To most teens I know, including me, politics is not a joke or something just for adults; it is something that is important, because each and every one of us is affected by what goes on in this country’s government. No teen I know considers themselves separate from the world of politics just because they cannot vote; most get involved and are preparing for a future in which they are part of the democracy. In times like these when so many of us are concerned about the future of our country, nobody ignores politics in my age group, and I’m confident that if given the power to vote, sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds would be serious-minded and rational voters.
I know I don’t have access to a wide variety of teens; the ones I’m talking about are mainly New York private school students with very similar political opinions. However, the article included a lot of evidence supporting the fact that sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds vote when given the chance, explaining that in places where they are legally allowed to vote in local elections, they tend to turn out in large numbers. The statistics related to this were impressive to me; they showed me that teens in my small and privileged corner of the country are not the only ones who want a voice in the democracy; such teens are everywhere and are ready for more power.
The article also includes the fact that voter turnout of eighteen- to twenty-four year olds is incredibly low, which surprises me. I had thought that being new to the privilege of voting would motivate more people to vote, and finding out I was wrong disappointed me. However, as the article said, starting younger might help change these statistics and improve the attitudes a lot of younger adults have towards voting.
The article also brings up the heartbreaking truth that sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds cannot vote to change the gun laws that are causing death in their schools. It’s not just older students that are being affected by gun laws, though; it’s all students who go to school. I think that sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds, who often attend school with younger students who are definitely not getting voting rights any time soon, can represent the youth of our country who suffer the effects of laws they can’t change. Sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds would act as a voice for those who need one, representing a demographic that may not be old enough to vote but is still affected by this country’s laws and are old enough to know change is needed.
The opinion piece gives me hope for a future in which younger, enthusiastic, bright people will be able to make choices to move our country forward. Some of what is going on in the United States right now is appalling to me, and being given the chance to actually have a real impact and make a difference would be amazing. Whether or not the voting age ends up being lowered, I’m glad to have read this piece, because it has forced me to examine the power dynamic in the country and ask questions I hadn’t realized needed to be answered.