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

Stefan Appel, Contributing Writer

In the United States of America, you must be 18 years or older to purchase a lottery ticket, register for the military draft, and order a “as seen on TV” product from annoying commercials. So, fittingly, you should be no younger than 18 years to participate in politics by voting, right?

Here in the U.S., voting wasn’t available to 18 year-olds until 1971, when the 26th Amendment to the Constitution lowered the national voting age from 21 to 18.  At the time, it was commonly thought that broadening the electorate would increase voter turnout, thereby making the government a more democratic institution. But was making a change in the voting age worthwhile, and is it worth doing again?

“I don’t think so,” said senior Yuval Philipson.  “Sure, you’ve got more people voting, but these new voters would be much more immature, especially if you lower the age even further, allowing 15 or 16 year olds to vote… I wouldn’t want that.”

Most scientific reports agree that the human brain only finishes developing after twenty-four years. As a result, young people are far more impressionable and easy to sway. Should a presidential candidate offer free ice cream every Friday for every person in the United States, admit it— that candidate would receive the vast majority of this new group of voters.  This hypothetical candidate could also advocate for immediate war with all of western Europe, but, hey, it’s free ice cream.

“I mean, I really like ice cream,” said sophomore Hugh Owens, “and I’m not saying I would vote for anyone just based on the free ice cream, but I can definitely see some people my age or younger being legitimately swayed by that.”

Being easily convinced of anything is not the only reason why our national voting age should not be lowered.  It is a proven fact that, once permitted to vote in 1971, 18-21 year olds made up the age group with the lowest voter turnout in the United States.  Although they made up 18% of the electorate in 1976, they only accounted for 13% of votes.  In the 1980s and 1990s, they voted even less.

“A small part of me doesn’t really care, but it’s definitely unfortunate,” said senior Owen Mitchell.  “If only a little more than 10% of all young people would vote after a while, is it worth having them vote in the first place?”

And although many may think that since the U.S.A.’s voter turnout is lower than that of other countries, lowering the federal voting age would help the country make up some ground in that department.  However, that idea ignores all of the aforementioned statistics. Per capita, Americans simply vote less.

In our most recent presidential election, over 120 million people voted, accounting for around 60% of all eligible American voters.  That number is nearly 30 percent less than Belgium, where over 85% of eligible voters take to the polls.

However, does this mean that fewer Americans vote in their elections than Belgians?  Of course not.  Belgium’s population is a mere 11.6 million, approximately the combined population of New York City, Los Angeles, and Port Washington.

Of course more people voted here in the United States, but our enormous voting pool means nothing when you consider that this is a country of over 350 million inhabitants and 240 million eligible voters.

“If China had a democratically elected official who got 300 million votes, you’d think, ‘Wow! He must be a really great candidate!’” said senior Robert Rosso.  “Then you’d realize, ‘oh, wait, that’s only 25 percent of the population.  That’s nothing. No one votes in China.”

So, this begs the question: would it be worth it to lower the voting age once again, allowing more Americans to vote at the cost of potentially uninformed and harmful votes being counted? In short, no. Not only would many high school students be too immature to vote, but odds are that they are not informed enough to vote either.

Most kids aged 15 to 17 are just beginning to learn about the many functions of our complex government, so why should they be trusted with decisions that could potentially affect the entire country?

Voting is a right, not a privilege.  Free elections are absolutely crucial when creating a foundation for democracy, and the more democratic a nation is, the better.  However, there is a line that should not be crossed.  Young adults should be allowed to vote, but children should not.