Will the voting age ever be lower than 18?
Expanding the right to vote in America has always been a difficult process. Recently, there has been a renewed discussion about expanding the voting population--this time by lowering the voting age to 16.
Some countries have already lowered the voting age to 16 for certain elections, including: Nicaragua, Scotland, Ethiopia, Ecuador, Brazil, Austria, and Argentina.
While the idea has not gained much traction in the United States, four US cities - three in Maryland and one in California - allow 16-year olds to vote in certain elections.
Four cities in America have lowered the voting age to 16 for certain elections: Takoma Park, Greenbelt, and, Hyattsville, all located in Maryland and Berkeley, California.
Takoma Park was the first city to lower the voting age to 16 after amending its town charter in 2013. Two years later, Hyattsville gave 16-year olds the right to vote after their town council voted 7-4 in favor of the change. Greenbelt followed suit in 2018, after the idea won 53% support from the city’s voters. The city’s youth advisory committee had been lobbying for the change since 2015. Berkeley also lowered the voting age to 16 in 2018.
While the voting age was lowered in these four cities, 16-year olds are only allowed to participate in certain elections. All three cities in Maryland allow 16 year olds to vote in local elections and referendums. However, in Berkeley, 16 year olds can only vote in school board elections.
Why do some people want to lower the voting age to 16?
Young people under 18 are civically engaged. They have led climate walkouts, participated in climate change activism, as well as gun control activism.
As voting rights advocate J. Cottle explains, turning 16 marks a new chapter in life. 16-year-olds can obtain a license to drive a car, they can work a job without hourly restrictions, and as a result many will start paying taxes.
Young people already have plenty of skin in the game of politics, but they have no direct voice because many of them cannot vote.
One of the biggest issues and criticisms of younger voters in the United States is voter turnout. Young voters typically don’t turn out in high numbers to vote.
Lowering the voting age may also increase voter turnout among younger voters! Why? Learn more below!
Research suggests that one reason turnout is low is because voting is an established habit. If 16-year olds are allowed to vote, they can begin to establish this pattern earlier, and carry it for the rest of their lives.
It is much easier to establish voting as a habit at 16 when someone is still in high school, rather than 18 when many young people’s lives are dramatically changing.
Research also suggests that allowing 16 year olds to vote could have a “trickle up” effect as well. If young people vote, this encourages their parents to vote and participate more in civic life.
Listen to Vote16USA Campaign Manager at Generation Citizen Brandon Klugman make his case for lowering the voting age.
However, Americans aren’t fans of the idea. 75% of Americans oppose lowering the voting age to 17, and 84% of Americans oppose lowering it to 16.
Several bills and amendments have been introduced nationwide to lower the voting age. The most recent attempt in the House of Representatives was voted down 126-305.
What do YOU think? Is lowering the voting age to 16 a good idea?
Bring it up with your friends, your family, inform them about the debate of this ongoing issue!
Call your representatives! You could call your State Rep or State Senator. Or members of your town/city government. Or even your Congressperson or Senator. Tell them what you think, they’re representing you for a reason!
An article from Vox’s Kelsey Piper opining that we should get rid of the voting age altogether.
There hasn’t been a whole lot of polling done on this issue, but The Hill and HarrisX conducted a poll in 2019 to find out what Americans think of this issue.
A TedxUCDavis talk by Dr. Mindy Romero detailing the power of the youth vote and some of the barriers that American youth have to get over in order to have their voices heard at the ballot box.
You can identify your representatives and contact them through this database. All you have to do is type in your address to learn more.
The New York Times published an article comparing the movement to lower the voting age to 18 to the present one coalescing around lowering the voting age to 16.