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Should We Lower the Voting Age?

From the Withitgirl ARCHIVE: Originally published in c2000 ( see 2020 updates at the bottom of the article )

Why is it that we can work, drive, and get married by age 16, but we can't vote at 16? What is it about electing a political representative that's so much more important than choosing your life-mate or operating a potentially deadly vehicle?

The voting age was lowered to 18 nearly 30 years ago, and many people now believe this antiquated law is in desperate need of another constitutional makeover. Perhaps the most persuasive argument in favor of lowering the voting age to 16 is an old "Bean town" battle cry: "No taxation without representation!" Whether you flip burgers at McD's, sell sweaters at Eddie Bauer, or serve breakfast at IHOP, state and federal taxes are taken out of every hard-earned paycheck. In fact, if you claim "0" dependents as most students do, about half of your paycheck goes to the government. If you're contributing money to society, shouldn't you have a say in where it goes and how it's used?

In some states, youth of all ages can be sent to adult prisons by adult courts for adult crimes. But who determines what those crimes are? Who sets the age at which you can be tried as an adult? The voters do. This may sound oversimplified, but the fact is, when voters elect a lawmaker, they are also choosing the laws. Candidates running for district attorney, mayor, senator, and, of course, president, make public the laws they want passed.

Why must someone under 18 take on the responsibilities and consequences of being an adult without having the right to vote like one? Anyone affected by the laws should've earned the right to have a say in enacting them.

Some naysayers use statistics to dispute this, citing poor voter turnout among 18-to-24-year-olds and little understanding by high school seniors of basic government functions. Others claim that those under 18 are immature, easily manipulated, and uninterested and/or uninformed on political issues. While not every high school sophomore has the independence, aptitude, and intellect of the ever-sarcastic Joey Potter* (Dawson Creek) teens are more informed now than in 1971. This is due in large part to the Internet and a more sophisticated school curriculum, which includes classes such as government and economics. Not to mention that there is no evidence that teens are less knowledgeable on political issues than adults.

Although some teens in favor of lowering the voting age are zealous about their position, little has been accomplished politically toward changing the law. One of the most vocal groups, Americans for a Society Free from Age Restrictions (ASFAR)*, is encouraging advocates to lobby Minnesota's House Governmental Operations and Veteran's Affairs Policy Committee, which has yet to vote on a bill lowering the voting age to 16. As of now, that bill is holding up some committee member's crystal paperweight.

What's the problem? Simply, although the issue is hotly debated among a select few, it hasn't yet grabbed the attention of enough political bigwigs to get addressed on the big screen. The irony is that no one under 18 can vote, but politicians may feel accountable only to voters. Nice Catch-22.

How do you make a lawmaker feel accountable to you? By making it an important issue to the voters.

Get involved, and get others involved:

* Speak at community forums and discussion groups to generate interest in your voting community.

* During their next visit or rally, ask your political representatives where they stand on this issue.

* Write intelligent letters to your congressional representative or senator.

* Most of all, don't forget this when you become 18. If you can't make a difference now, you will then.


This article is meant for entertainment purposes only. The views stated in the above article are not necessarily those of or PPFA.

Copyright C 1999 - 2001 Planned Parenthood R Federation of America.

Reprinted with permission from

2020 Updates and Notes

Since this article was written, we’ve seen youth activists lead climate strikes from New York City to San Francisco, school shooting survivors speak up for stricter gun regulation, and students witnessing sustainable change for LGBTQ rights.

Updated links and Articles for 2020:


* Although Americans for a Society Free from Age Restrictions is no longer active, its legacy lives on and it has inspired new youth rights movements across the country.

* Joey Potter: Josephine Lynn "Joey" Potter is a fictional character and de facto lead role from the WB television drama Dawson's Creek, portrayed by Katie Holmes. Joey appeared in all episodes of the series, which ran from 1998–2003. Dawson's Creek is an American teen drama television series about the lives of a close-knit group of friends beginning in high school and continuing into college that ran from 1998 to 2003. source: Wikipedia

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