Under the current U.S. Constitution, 18-year-old Americans have the right to vote (Grover, 2010). Nowadays, there is a growing movement to lower the voting age to 16 to involve a greater number of young citizens. Some activists even claim that the right to vote should be given to 13-year-olds. This suggestion has some advantages, but as far as I am concerned, age limitations are necessary to make the voting fairer. In this short essay, I intend to look at advantages and disadvantages of involving teenagers in the political processes and explain my position regarding this issue.
Since the Second Word War, there has been a tendency to reduce the voting age. In 1946, Czechoslovakia lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. During the 1970s-1980s, the Western countries joined this movement, so by the end of the century, teenagers in the majority of developed states were allowed to make important voting decisions (Sanders, 2000). From the beginning of the 21st century, some countries have been discussing the need to lower the voting age further. While in the majority of them, this suggestion was strongly rejected, countries such as Austria, Brazil, Malta, etc. reduced the voting age by 16. However, this reduction concerns mainly local elections or important referendums. Although some politicians and activists continue to advocate for the reduction without any limitations, the majority of the people disagree.
Proponents of changing the voting age have many arguments in favor of this decision. Thus, they claim that while teenagers have adult responsibilities, they are denied the right to decide what is best for them. 16-year-olds are already active members of the community and they are capable of analyzing the facts and forming their own views. Furthermore, while young people are expected to follow the law, they cannot influence the lawmaking process, which is not fair. Indeed, why a teenager can be put in an adult prison but not allowed to vote on a par with adults?
Advocates of a change also argue that young voters are generally more dedicated to the process compared to older citizens. It is wrong to claim that younger people are less informed about the politics because sometimes, a 13-year-old student can have more knowledge than a 40-year-old citizen does. Besides, voting is not only about being informed but about feeling a part of the society and having equal democratic rights. Finally, including teenagers in the voting process may reinvigorate the political system and possibly contribute to innovations and unconventional decisions.
At the same time, the decision to lower the voting age to 13 can have many negative implications. To begin with, there are fears that young people can be easily manipulated by shrewd politicians, who would make populist and unrealistic promises only to attract more young voters. Some argue that teenagers do not yet know much about the world, so they are unable to make important decisions about their future, say nothing of the future of the country. They may simply be not prepared emotionally and intellectually to analyze politicians’ positions and decide what is best for them and the society in general.
As for me, I agree with opponents of lowering the voting age. I am aware that even 13-year-olds can be mature and well-educated. However, the majority of them are still children who are not exposed to life and its realities. They do not take their lives seriously, so elections may become no more than a fun experience to them. I also think that dishonest politicians would likely take advantage of young voters to win their minds.
For example, they would promise to legalize marijuana or provide more rights to teenagers. As far as I am concerned, at 13, a person may not understand what truly matters in a political leader and what actions he/she needs to take in a specific time and context. Therefore, although I admit that giving the right to vote to 16-year-olds is reasonable in some cases, lowering the voting age further may harm both young voters and the country in general.
Grover, S. C. (2010). Young people’s human rights and the politics of voting age. New York, NY: Springer Science & Business Media.
Sanders, M. (2000). Your right to vote. United States: Raintree Steck-Vaugh Company.