Lower the voting age

Maria Bellios, Staff Writer

With the 2022 Midterms coming to a close, would there have been a different outcome having the voting age be reduced to 16 in Maryland?

Without the privilege of voting for 16 and 17-year-olds, Americans are given other rights and obligations that apply to adults. For instance, the age for obtaining a learner’s permit is only 14 in six states, whereas it is often set at 15 or 16 in the majority of the other states. States trust minors to make split-second decisions while operating dangerous cars, but apparently making an educated decision by voting is too much.

The majority of states set 16 as the legal age of consent for both marriage and sexual conduct. There is little doubt that the ability to choose between candidates takes a similar level of maturity to marriage, if not less.

Even Teenagers aged 16 and 17 are likewise exempt from time restrictions on employment. 

When 16 and 17-year-olds commit severe crimes, they have the opportunity to become mature enough to grasp the repercussions of their acts, like a legal adult, and should bear the punishment. This is one of the most hypocritical parts of how 16 and 17-year-olds are appraised by the government. Most states permit people who are older than 13 to be tried as adults. Why should teens be treated as adults but not be allowed to share their political opinions just like millions of adults do?

What is exercising one’s right to vote if not making a deliberate choice after carefully weighing the pros and cons?

Another claim is that 16 and 17-year-olds lack the civic literacy necessary for voting. Putting aside the fact that there is no requirement for civic literacy in America for people 18 and older, the kids now enrolled in civics and social studies classes are 16 and 17-year-olds. 

Additionally, even though many 16 and 17-year-olds are employed, those who aren’t have more time to educate themselves before casting a ballot. Teens have the greatest stake in the policy outcomes that will result from elections, which is true for young people in general but even more so for 16 and 17-year-olds. They will typically spend more time on Earth than their elder counterparts, and they will be forced to live with the results of their decisions.

This generation also seems to be starting their activism earlier. Colleges and universities were frequently epicenters of activity throughout the Civil Rights Era, and due to a number of causes, this spirit of activism has been beginning even earlier. Along with immigration, healthcare, immigration and gun legislation, climate change is one of the most significant challenges facing this generation. The youth more than deserve to exercise the freedom that is the cornerstone of American democracy. 

Another prevalent opposition is that 16 and 17-year-olds lack the maturity to cast responsible ballots. This argument conflates cool cognition, which is the brain’s capacity for making reasoned, informed decisions, with hot cognition, which is characterized by impulsive, spur-of-the-moment decision-making frequently associated with irresponsible, hormonal teenagers (such as voting), which recognizes the maturity in teens.

At Dulaney there seems to be a close to even split, 57% surveyed said that the voting age should be lowered to 16, while the other 42% said no. The majority of students involved in civic engagement tend to favor reducing the voting age, having been exposed to the policies firsthand, while students who are not as closely involved in civic engagement tend to lead towards the common opinion that there is a lack of maturity within 16 and 17-year-olds.

Having said that, it’s important to recognize the opinions, lack thereof, of teenagers in the democratic process. Given that maturity is at hand, with many teenagers being employed and being involved in advocating for our youth it’s important to acknowledge the reduction of the voting age.