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Why is it that we can work, join the army and get married by the age of 16, but we can’t vote at 16? What is it about electing a political representative that’s so much more important then choosing a husband or sending yourself off to potential death?
The voting age was lowered to 18 nearly 30 years ago, and many people now believe this out of date law is in desperate need of another revision. The most ancient of arguments “No taxation without representation” is still relevant today. If you work at sixteen, whether it’s flipping burgers in McDonald’s, a modern apprenticeship or holding down a Saturday job, taxes are still being taken out of your hard earned wages. (Mandle, 2007) If you’re contributing money to society, shouldn’t you have a say in where it goes and how it’s used?
In some parts of the world, youth of all ages can be sent to adult prisons by adult courts where they are put on trial for adult crimes. But who determines what these crimes are? Who sets the age at which you can be tried as an adult? The voters do. This may sound oversimplified, but the fact is, when voters elect a lawmaker, they are also choosing the laws. Candidates running for local councils, mayor, Member of Parliament, and, of course, Prime Minister, make public the laws they want passed. (Lankford, 2007)
Those against may use statistics to dispute this argument, citing poor voting turnout among 18-24 year olds and little understanding by 16 years olds of basic government functions. Others claim that those under 18 are immature, easily manipulated, uninterested and uniformed on political issues. But considering what goes on in government legislatures and city council meetings – those circus rings with predominately older white men yelling and making accusations at each other- it’s hard to take these arguments seriously.
At 16 many students are learning about history, government and economics. With new sophisticated school curricula as well as the internet, teens are growing in independence, aptitude and intellect. (Wattenberg, 2007) There is also absolutely no evidence to prove that teens are less knowledgeable on political issues than adults. (Lankford, 2007) After all, how did Hitler get voted in to power? It certainly wasn’t by the country’s “immature”16 year olds, but the adult voters. If teens are learning about these issues in the classroom, why not give us the opportunity to apply what we are learning in the real world, through the ballot box?
It is true that some 16 year olds don’t know a great deal about politics but this is not restricted to the youth alone. There are many adults who base their vote on whether “Mr X” has a full head of hair, a comforting voice, or whether he’ll give them the biggest tax cut regardless of how absurd his policies are.
Our society has changed, and teens now have to deal with many adult responsibilities. Many teens read the paper and watch the news just like adults. We know what’s going on politically and have opinions. Why must someone under 18 take on the responsibilities and there consequences as an adult without having the right to vote like one? The UN convention for the rights of the child says that all ‘All young people have the right to express our opinions by whatever means available.’ Therefore shouldn’t we be allowed to express ourselves through voting for our choice of political party? 16 year olds are affected by many of the laws made today and we have definitely earned the right to have our say in enacting them.
Lankford, Ronald D. (2007) Should the Voting Age Be Lowered? Greenhaven Press.
Wattenberg, Martin P. (2007) Is Voting for Young People? With a Postscript on Citizen Engagement. Longman Publishers; 2 Edition.
Mandle, Jay R. (2007) Democracy, America, and the Age of Globalization. Cambridge University Press.