Teenagers deserve the right to vote

Ethan Harvey, Opinion Editor

While some believe teenagers are more naive compared to the rest of society, such qualities should not keep them out of the polls.

A citizen’s right to vote at age 18 has been in place since 1971, when the 26th Amendment was passed. Prior to 1971, an American citizen had to wait until they were 21 to fulfill that right.

Nowadays, another change to the voting age might not be such a bad idea.

With the current political climate, many young adults have found themselves more attached to the news than ever before. Whether it is due to the dysfunctional state of the White House, or that politics is so tied to social media, teens are getting involved in the political process.

So, why not let the younger generation contribute to future elections? More specifically, 16 and 17 year olds.

At the age of 16, people gain more maturity in regards to legal freedom and rights. They can drive, get a job, and even pay taxes. In fact, young Americans account for $9.7 billion dollars in sales taxes alone, according to the IRS. It makes no sense that teenagers are given adult-like responsibilities at 16, but aren’t able to cast votes for the politicians we support.

In addition, the National Youth Rights Association claims lowering the voter age will increase voter turnout. In the past, the age group with the lowest turnout in presidential elections has been citizens aged 18-24.

It is common knowledge that the earlier in life a habit is formed, the more likely that habit will continue throughout life. If attempts are made to prevent young people from picking up bad habits, why are no attempts made to get youth started with good habits, like voting? If citizens begin voting earlier and get into the habit of doing so earlier, they are more likely to stick with it through life.

One could argue that lowering the voting age is an unnecessary move due to the fact that teenagers are swayed easily. Furthermore, because of their lack of experience, some claim they are likely to be manipulated by others.

While that is sometimes true, one would hope that the people who take time out of their day to go vote will at least have some sort of knowledge on the candidates and what they stand for. In addition, what makes a 16 or 17-year-old political mind different from an 18-year-old? The issue of uninformed voters will always be relevant, regardless of the voting age.

To compromise with those people, here is a solution: Federal elections will maintain the 18-year-old minimum. However, for local and state elections, the age should be reduced to 16. This will encourage kids to pay attention to the local governments, especially in Illinois where we are no strangers to dysfunctional leaders.

The attention to politics is rapidly increasing nowadays and there is no reason why younger people shouldn’t practice the right that every adult citizen has.