Great Debate: Should the U.S lower the voting age to 16?

Breeze Aguilar: At just 17 years old, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in history. At 16 years old, Greta Thunberg’s School Strike for Climate became international. Countless young people have demonstrated their competency and passion for different issues– teenagers all around the world are ready to lead movements, but in America, they are still not ready to vote.

Teenagers have every resource at their disposal– with the power of the internet, they have access to unabridged knowledge and can inform themselves on whatever topic they please. The only issue, however, is they won’t. Their time is usually spent on social media, hearing news from unreliable sources… But this logic applies to every generation, doesn’t it? Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers continually rag on teenagers for spending time on platforms such as TikTok or Instagram instead of properly educating themselves, when the older generations do the exact same thing, except only on sites such as Facebook or YouTube.

Sure, 16 year olds don’t have a great amount of life experience, but at what point can we say you’ve lived long enough to vote? The difference between 18 and 16 isn’t huge– does attending a senior prom or filling out the FAFSA suddenly grant you enough life experience to vote? How about working a 10 hour shift instead of capping at 8?

One of the reasons this country became independent was the principle of “No taxation without representation,” therefore, by not allowing 16 year olds to vote, we contradict it. Many 16 year olds have jobs. The day I became 16, I began searching for my first job. However, when I got my first paycheck, there was a fair amount taken off: my taxes. Teens under 18 have no say in where their taxes go– facing taxation without representation. And no, not all 16 year olds have jobs, but not all 18 year olds go to war either.

Older generations must be trusted to make decisions for teenagers– these voters often have not been in high school for decades and don’t understand how much has changed. For example, the problem of gun violence in schools irks teens across the nation, yet there is still next to nothing they can systematically do about it.

Brooke Saaty: Are you ready for your 16 year old neighbor–you know, the one whose parents are always complaining about having no discipline or common sense–to decide who the next president of the United States should be? Yeah, I’m not ready for that either. Let’s face it; teenagers are not known for making the best decisions. Whether it is their inability to get to bed at a reasonable time, their lack of time management or the inability of most to appropriately budget their money, teenagers simply do not have the life experience necessary to justify giving them the right to vote.

Okay, now yes, I know what you are thinking. We give 18 year olds the right to vote, and we do need to get more young people involved in politics. Yet, let’s think this through. Anyone over 18 can join the military, whether voluntarily or by draft. 18 year olds can also adopt kids. Most 18 year olds also have a basic education, having completed high school or being about to graduate. Then of course, there is the fact that most 18 year olds have work experience with them either having a job or working on getting one. That means that most 18 year olds pay taxes. So, they have a right to have some say in the government that they pay for and fight for.

What do 16 year olds have to say in their favor? Yes, a few of them have part time jobs. However, other than that, 16 year olds are completely dependent on their parents. In their 16 years of “experience,” they have yet to finish high school or have a long lasting job. What do 16 year olds actually know about life? Most 16 year olds barely know anything about politics or political policies. So, why should we give 16 year olds the right to vote? Yes, we need to get more kids involved in politics, but that can be accomplished through other methods that will help educate 16 year olds first before they actually have the power to vote. Why not have more events aimed at educating tenagers and getting them interested in politics? 

Why should we give easily influenced, uneducated tenaggers who don’t even have the right to drink alcohol yet the right to vote? Why would we give teenagers who lack common sense, life experience and have done nothing to actually support the country like fight in the military or pay taxes the right to vote? That is just a disaster waiting to happen.

“The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all,” said John F. Kennedy.