The Political Arena: Extend franchise to youth

Voting is power. In America, we have long prided ourselves in our democracy and the opportunity to influence the laws that dictate our lives. Voting provides us with a voice — yet, in every election, millions of youth are unjustly silenced. Ultimately, lowering the voting age to 16 will foster societal benefits, while also bolstering the concept of democracy in our nation.

Our youth is directly impacted by the decisions of politicians and most severely affected by issues like food insecurity and air pollution, according to Vox. As a result, the legislation created by politicians to combat or inflame these problems will leave lasting consequences on their futures.

LOWER VOTING AGE: Extending the franchise to 16-year-olds is crucial for American democracy. (Photo Courtesy of wikimedia commons)

Approximately half of the 74 million children in the U.S. are racial minorities, according to PBS. In recent years, debates about racial injustices and the means to combat these inequalities have become more prominent in the political sphere. Waves of legislation have emerged to dismantle race-based violence and discrimination, such as the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act and COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. With both support and opposition to these policies rising on the local, state and federal levels, it is crucial to provide children with the opportunity to voice their opinions on laws that will significantly impact their lives.

In 2022, state lawmakers have already introduced roughly 240 bills to restrict the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ+ Americans, according to NBC News. If enacted, these anti-LGBTQ+ bills will inevitably transform the lives of LGBTQ+ youth. Lowering the voting age requirements will allow children to facilitate social change and fight for their own rights.

Furthermore, providing adolescents with the right to vote will cultivate civic engagement and increase future voter turnout. Voting is a habitual practice, according to a study conducted by Yale University. This means voters are more likely to continue voting consistently after casting their ballots in the first election they are eligible for. Enabling 16-year-olds to build this habit at a younger age will allow them to become more civically engaged citizens.

In addition, research conducted by institutions like the University of California, Los Angeles, and Rutgers University demonstrates that 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds possess the necessary civic knowledge and cognitive skills to create informed decisions when voting. Voting relies upon “cold cognition,” which is a decision-making process that matures by the age of 16.

Ultimately, the right to vote is the language of democracy. The millions of children across the country who are impacted by political decisions deserve a voice. It is time for the U.S. to lower its minimum voting age and let the youth be heard.