In 1961, President John Kennedy spoke words that defined generations to come: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
Fifty-five years later, Kennedy’s words are more true more than ever. The world has changed from what it was in the 1960s; America is no longer aiming nuclear weapons at Russia, but tensions have become focused on other areas, and grown even more widespread. After decades of disappointment, those who may remember voting for Kennedy have become embittered and scorned, enabling dangerous candidates from both parties to appear. Despite this, there is hope for fixing a strained country: allowing younger voters to take part.
If the United States lowered the voting age, it would not be for the first time. In the 1970s, the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 to allow young men who were being drafted into the Vietnam War the privilege to vote. When this was proposed, it was met with outrage. Lawmakers argued that 18-year-olds are irresponsible, and not mature enough to vote, but only because they opposed change.
Over 40 years have passed since the voting age was lowered. In modern America, there is no full-scale war going on, but this does not mean the election is not important. With this year’s presidential candidates consisting of two colorful individuals, the after effects of this election will be felt for many years to come. This means that the 30-, 40-, and 50-year-olds voting this year will not feel the whole sting of their vote as much as teenagers, who will be entering adulthood under a this new president. Teens are able to understand candidates’ stances on policies, form opinions on candidates, even discuss the candidates’ with others, but these teens are unable to vote for a candidate who could shape the next 50 years.
Current teens have had to live through the consequences of elections from the past. However, years have passed and today’s teens are more aware of current politics and more optimistic than any generation. It was today’s teens that took part in the many rallies for Bernie Sanders and joined in his hope for debt free colleges, despite being unable to vote for him. To hear a candidate on television is one thing, but to rally behind one in person as much as teens did is unheard of. Even at Pioneer, there was a “Ann Arbor Students for Bernie” club for much of the previous school year. Circulating fliers and buttons for a candidate they could not vote for may be considered foolhardy, but to say that today’s teens are unaware of modern politics is an ill-informed statement.
If the United States wants the presidential election to truly reflect who Americans want for president then there is something that can be done: lower the voting age to 16.
The voting age is 18 for a reason: people younger than that are not prepared to vote. First of all, most young people under 18 do not care enough about politics to have an actual opinion. Most teens have their minds on things like friends, social media, school, and sports. They do not have the time to research the candidates and make an educated choice like adults do. Additionally, teens are very easily influenced by parents, teachers, and celebrities. These people could affect their decisions. Also, teens do not have experience in the real world and are not informed enough to make educated decisions. If teens under 18 could vote they would end up voting for the “cool” or “trendy” candidate instead of the candidate that might have been best for the job.
Teens that are under the age of 18 are not mature enough to vote. If they are not considered responsible enough to consume tobacco or alcohol then they are not responsible enough to make an educated decision about who should lead our country. There are reasons that teens are not trusted with many responsibilities. The University of Rochester Medical Center published a study which showed the rational part of a human’s brain is not fully developed until the age of 25. Adults use the rational part of the brain to think whereas teens think more from the emotional part of their brain which makes it harder for them to logically consider who will best represent this country, but rather simply think about how they feel in that moment. Sixteen- and 17-year-olds are not mentally developed enough to make monumental decisions. According to Gallup.com, 7 in 10 teens say that their social and political ideologies are about the same as their parents. Kids and teens can be easily swayed by other things as well such as social media, friends, and teachers. This would be a very big problem for the American voting system because it would mean that some of voters would not be thinking for themselves which leads to votes that are not an accurate representation of what the nation really wants. According to reference.com nearly seven percent of the nations’ population is between the ages of 15 to 19 years old. These seven percent of potential voters could be the difference between one candidate and another becoming the president of the United States.
Teens who are under 18 years old have rarely experienced the real world. Most 16- and 17-year-olds are not even out of their parents’ house and have not lived on their own and experienced adulthood. If there are teens voting that have never had a job, never paid taxes, never paid for health care, and never lived on their own then they would not be able to fully understand and appreciate all of the complex issues that they are voting on.
If younger teens are allowed to vote then there will be votes that really do not mean anything. Let’s leave the adult activity of voting to our citizens who are living as actual adults.