I felt the benign wetness of a teardrop on my face. Donald Trump 53%, Hillary Clinton 44%. I stared in disbelief. Some of my friends disliked Hillary’s ideas, but we all agreed Donald Trump was the wrong way to go. I began to think, if teens were allowed to vote, we wouldn't be in this predicament.
Older teenagers are being disenfranchised by the U.S. Teens who work are getting taxes and social security taken out out of their checks. In some states, teens can be tried as adults in court. These are all ways in which teens are treated as adults, yet we lack the right to vote.
As more teens become regular consumers of social media, we’ve developed a heightened awareness of worldly issues affecting us. Unfortunately, many believe that 16-year-olds are not responsible enough to vote in elections.
Luckily, a country across the ocean has experience in this topic. In 2007, Austria legalized 16-year-old voting which has proven that “lowering the voting age does not appear to have a negative impact (...) on democratic decisions,” according to Electoral Studies, an international journal covering all aspects of voting.
Upon surveying 80 14- to 21-year-olds, I found that 76% felt underrepresented in politics. “An older voting block might not be as keen to tackle climate change as it isn't as much of an immediate issue for them,” said Boston College High School senior Jack Shankar.
Of those surveyed, 94% have seen current event coverage on social media, exposing them to modern day issues. 80% have established that they read current events articles, and 100% of them have conversations about politics with their friends.
“Social media, of course, has made me gain access to insight on political news and especially with the current administration it has kept me on my toes with what's currently going on in that mess of a White House.” expresses Shelby Casimir, a senior at Marblehead High School.
Then the main question: “Should the legal voting age be lowered to 16?” The overarching answer? Yes. With 61% of voters agreeing.
“There’s always been a lot of political maturity in young people” said Felicia M. Sullivan, Senior Researcher at The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. “There is no cognitive difference between being 16 and being 18.”
Infact, research has proven that 16-year-olds are more likely to vote than 18-year-olds is because “they are in the presence of an educational mechanic.” or in other words they're still in the K-12 school system.
Voting is important. The future of democracy depends on it. By including teens in politics while they're in school, they carry these habits into adulthood.
As teens, we can register to vote early and that will save us a step and allow us to walk into a polling site ready to go. We can also join initiatives for lowering the voting age like Teen Empowerment or Boston Mobilization Teens Vote.
The one thing we can't do is allow our generation to stop participating in the election process. When it’s time to vote, get out there and do your job. When you’re mad about who's in office, I’m going to ask, “Did you vote?”