Are 16-year-olds too young to have a say in politics? – The Observer

In a democratic society, it is crucial that citizens participate and keep a keen interest in politics to maintain social order and justice. For those not in the legal field, the easiest method for civic engagement is casting a vote for the political candidate most likely to work for their benefit. For the well-being of a nation, citizens must be able to make proper judgments that will benefit most people and engage in movements to correct injustice and past misjudgments. In the United States, people are granted the right to vote at 18 years old, when a person is considered a legal adult; however, most citizens take part in society before reaching that age, especially around the age of 16. It would therefore make sense to lower the voting age to 16.

Initially, the voting age was 21. It was lowered to 18 during the Vietnam War under the 26th Amendment of the Constitution. The underlying logic was that if someone could die for their country at 18, they should have the right to elect the government officials who can decide to implement a draft. Applying similar logic as during the Vietnam War, 16-year-olds should be allowed to vote since, despite being a minor, they take an active role in society and are affected by government policy as much as adults are. By 16 years old, most people are allowed to drive, work, pay taxes, apply for a passport without a guardian and get married with parental approval. It is the age when people are considered young adults, transitioning from childhood to adulthood. They should have a right to speak up for their own benefits and hold partial control over their future.

In the instance of student loan forgiveness that affects many students, a poll conducted by Morning Consult in 2021 claimed that teenagers and those in their 20s are more likely to vote in favor of loan forgiveness than older people. Young people are more likely to agree because those who have recently graduated are less able to manage their debt as a result of a lower income status compared to higher earners. However, older adults who are less likely to benefit from loan forgiveness and hold Republican viewpoints are more likely to object to using taxes to pay off the debts of college students. Issues such as loan forgiveness which concern younger populations more than their older counterparts will be overlooked if the voting age is too high.

Moreover, lowering the voting age to 16 will promote better civic engagement. Allowing people to get involved in politics at an early age can raise awareness to the importance of civic education in schools, ensuring that students make rational decisions and take matters seriously. Improved quality of education and early exposure to politics can thus help students realize the importance of civic engagement and understand politics to be an active part of their lives rather than a distant, complicated issue that is irrelevant to them.

Lowering the voting age to 16 will bring positive benefits to society. As a result of more people being allowed to vote, we could see increased voter turnout. They can also find new solutions to existing problems and raise awareness of injustices concerning the LGBTQIA+ community, abortion rights, people of color and many more. They are more likely to partake in efforts geared towards fixing unjust policies and promoting social well being, which leads to enhanced social trust.

Some people think that 16-year-olds do not have the intellectual ability to make the right decisions; however, knowledge and understanding are far more important than age in decision making. Those who are young can be excellent decision makers, and those who are old can be terrible decision makers. The United States should focus on equipping its citizens with political knowledge rather than banning a group of people they perceive to be incapable, especially since 16- to 17-year-olds comprise 2.5% of the U.S. population. It is the age when state governments decided to grant teenagers the ability to drive, work and pay taxes. If the government is willing to collect their income taxes, they should give those taxpayers the right to vote on how that tax money is spent.

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