Point: Should the United States government lower the federal voting age?

Andrew Falzone, Contributing Writer

Voting is the backbone of democracy.  The voting process is undeniably important and enmeshed into our country’s history, yet it isn’t a right granted to all United States citizens.

When the United States was founded, only white male landowners over the age of 21 were able to vote.  Over the course of our country’s history, the electorate expanded to include non-landowners and women and men of all backgrounds and ethnicities.  In 1971, the federal voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 and it hasn’t changed since then.

Obviously, Americans have decided that it is better to include more people in our electorate, and I believe this shouldn’t stop at 18.  In order to make an argument for lowering the voting age, it is important to know why the age was lowered in 1971.  Historically, the voting age of 21 remained the same since 1776, for almost 200 years, before it was changed.  So why did it suddenly drop?

The debate to lower the voting age started during WWII and intensified during the Vietnam War.  The argument was that if Americans were drafted into the army at 18, why shouldn’t they also be able to vote? It was a solid argument, and most Americans on both the pro-war and anti-war side agreed.

While our country is not currently engaged in a war, there are many arguments to support the pros that a lower voting age would be an important development in our nation in 2017. The 2016 Presidential election is a prime example of why the voting age could and should be lowered. It is a testament to the magnitude of people, under the age of 18, who are engaged in politics and politically informed.

“With social media nowadays kids are more informed in politics. And if they want to vote they should be able to vote,” said senior Julia Hayden.

Social media is the key development here.  Anyone who goes on social media can see just how heated online political debates can get.  If anything, with their higher tendency to be on social media, teenagers may arguably be more exposed to international or domestic developments.  If not the development themselves, they are undoubtedly exposed to the opinions of their peers.  Outside of social media, high school students can often be found talking politics in the halls or joining politically affiliated school clubs.  Of course, there will always be people who are oblivious to politics, but this is by no means exclusive to a certain demographic.

“I think that we should lower the voting age because the current voting age of 18 doesn’t represent so many politically active people under 18,” said senior Ivy Denham.

The argument against lowering the federal voting age rests largely on the assumption that young people aren’t experienced enough to make a conscious opinion when voting.  This misrepresents so many people.  If young people want to vote, they should have the right to.  If young people don’t want to vote, then they won’t show up to the polls.  Society should be embracing young minds to provide new solutions since our current ideologies and proposed solutions are tearing this country apart.

“I think younger people have very strong opinions and their voices have the absolute right to be heard,” said senior Remi Mankes.

The United States has low voter turnout compared to other democracies.  An easy way to combat this trend could merely be to lower the voting age. Even lowering the voting age by 1 or 2 years can actually make a difference.

“I think the voting age should be lowered because people are more likely to maintain the habit of voting throughout their lives if they start at a younger age,” said senior Carly Perlmutter.

Young people have very strong opinions and ideas, and they should be just as represented just like anyone else over 18 with an important symbol of democracy: the right to vote.

It is strange that, on average, 40% of the eligible voters in our country don’t vote while there are so many young people that would love to have that privilege. We must reevaluate the current political dynamic in the United States, and there’s better way to do so than by adding more voices to the conversation. The truth is, more and more young people are becoming politically active and informed. It’s an exciting time in politics, and lowering the voting age would encourage and allow millions of people to participate in our nation’s elections.