Spartan Spear: Voting Rights
Updated: Feb 11, 2021
By Christina Green '20
This is the second in a series of editorial collaborations between ICA Cristo Rey’s Spartan Press and Riordan High School’s Crusader. This issue’s topic is lowering the voting age in local, state, and national elections.
Student activism in the wake of the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida has brought new life to the debate over letting younger people vote. Although many individuals view this idea as unwise, it is fact intended to create lifelong voters and to help counter a national epidemic of voter disengagement. Unfortunately, when it comes to electing lawmakers whose decisions about gun control and other issues affecting their lives, high schoolers lack any real power. This needs to change: the federal voting age in the United States should be lowered from 18 to 16.
First, 16-year olds are just as knowledgeable about politics and have the same ability to make good voting choices as older voters. According to a study in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, “on measures of civic knowledge, political skills, political efficacy, and tolerance, 16-year-olds, on average, are obtaining scores similar to those of adults.” In addition, psychologists believe that16-year-olds have “cold cognition” skills: those used to make the kind of informed, well-thought-out choices needed to vote.
Secondly, lowering the voting age to 16 will increase voter turnout and develop lifelong voting habits. The U.S. has one of the lowest voter turnout rates among developed countries. A person who votes in one election has a 13% greater probability than a non-voter of voting in a future election. Furthermore, involving young people in voting can have a “trickle-up” effect on their parents and other adults in their households.
Lastly, at the age of 16, people should have a voice in the laws that affect their lives and the future of their country. Students today live under threats to their futures such as school shootings and climate change, and they deserve to have influence over their elected officials beyond the protests they’ve organized. Congress should give young people more than just their voices to make a change.