Magazine Opinions Volume 69, Issue 5

Suffrage for Sixteen Year Olds?

by Caroline Johnston

As the 2020 presidential elections grow closer, many young activists, including myself, feel helpless because we don’t have the right to vote. We don’t want to rely on older generations to make the decisions that affect our future. We, the youth, are the ones who are marching in the streets demanding change in government policies because we are the ones whose futures are on the line. 

The legal voting age in the United States changed from 21 to 18 when the 26th amendment was passed in the early 1970s. Currently, Washington D.C. city councilman, Charles Allen, is attempting to pass a bill to lower the voting age to 16. He argues that many 16 and 17 year olds already have to deal with adult responsibilities, including having a job and paying taxes, and that they should at least get a say in who their elected officials are. An anonymous Junior says that, “Some 16 year olds might not be mature enough to vote in national elections,” but she would support 16 year olds being allowed to vote in smaller scale local elections. I believe that by the age of 16, most people are somewhat aware of what is happening in the world and the country because they are growing nearer to living independently in it. Therefore, they must begin to pay more attention to politics and form their own political views, instead of agreeing with their parents views. 

Some may argue that 16 year olds are irresponsible and won’t use their vote seriously nor wisely, but I think most 16 year olds who are irresponsible won’t take the time and effort to actually use their vote. Therefore, most of the 16 year olds who actually will go out and vote will also take the time to educate themselves on the candidates or propositions they are voting for. People may also argue that most 16 year olds don’t have their own political opinions, such as junior Jordan Krook who says, “They [16 year olds] still live under their parents roof and are influenced by their [parents] opinions.” However I think most 16 year olds are beginning to or have already formed their independent views because they have been exposed to so much in the world already. 

If 16 year olds had the right to vote, the presidential elections would most likely have different outcomes, especially the 2016 election. In the 2016 election, less than half of people between the ages of 18-29 voted; the smallest turnout of all age groups. Younger generations need to have a say in politics because we are the ones who are shaping the future. It doesn’t make sense that young activists who have led movements of millions of people don’t even have the right to choose their representatives or participate in governmental policy change. We need to encourage the youth to get involved in government, and I believe this can be done by granting them the right to vote. 

The question of whether or not 16 year olds should have the right to vote is very difficult to answer, but I think that more adolescents need to become involved in politics, and if this can be done by lowering the voting age, then I can’t say I’m opposed.