Can Sixteen-Year-Olds Be Trusted to Vote?

Kelsey Sullivan, Special to The Big Red

Teenagers spend six hours a day, one hundred eighty days a year in a government-funded building but we have no say in what happens in the government.

Contrary to what many teens might think, the decisions made in government have a big impact on our lives. Laws impact when and where we can work. Laws impact what we are taught in schools. Laws impact how much we are paid, how old we have to be to drive, how much freedom we have from our parents. The government is everywhere in our lives and sixteen and seventeen-year-olds deserve the right to vote.

Lowering the voting age would have numerous benefits. One benefit would be voter turnout increasing across all age groups.

America has very low voting rates compare to other developed countries but research shows that if you develop the habit of voting when you’re young, you’re more likely to continue voting in future elections.

It would also help the older generations because parents of children who are of age to vote are more likely to vote because they want to set a good example for their children. This increase in voter turnout would help America’s government be more representative of all Americans.

Another reason why the voting age needs to be raised is the fact that it is wrong that sixteen and seventeen-year-olds are paying taxes but they don’t have a say in where their money is going.

Last year, sixteen and seventeen-year-olds made up over fifteen percent of the workforce. That is three hundred and forty-seven thousand people who are paying taxes to a government that doesn’t reflect their values.

The involvement of the government in our lives goes far past paying taxes; with school shootings at an all-time high, gun control policies are something that most teens would probably like to have a say in.

The same goes for issues such as comprehensive sex-ed being taught in schools or lowering the drinking age to eighteen, or the number of standardized tests we take each year. We are interested and well-informed in the issues that affect us; so why can’t we vote?

Some people argue that teenagers under the age of eighteen are too young to vote, or that we won’t be informed enough to make good decisions, or that we are too easily influenced but I would argue that the exact opposite is true.

While it’s true that teenagers aren’t mature enough to consistently make good decisions under pressure, we have no problem with making decisions that we have more time to think about and voting isn’t a spur of the moment choice.

The argument that high schoolers won’t be informed enough is also incorrect and I would argue that we are likely to be more informed than older generations are.

No other age groups are required to take social studies classes where they will spend hours talking about our system of government and current world issues. No other age group is currently being given a free education where they are constantly being encouraged by teachers to research current events. No other age group is being fed as much new information as we are, through social media and the internet.

The argument that we are easily influenced by what we see online or hear on TV is also wrong, because this generation has had lessons about internet research, and knowing which sources are trustworthy since elementary school. Today’s young people are ready for the responsibility of voting and if they were given the chance, I believe they would seize the opportunity to cast their vote.