Recently you may have heard talk from Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, state that she is in favor of lowering the voting age to sixteen. Pelosi believes that by lowering the voting age, voter interest and turnout would increase. Many of the arguments Pelosi made were geared towards grabbing the teenager’s attention while they are learning about government. As a recent high school graduate, I can fully attest that lowering the voting age would not benefit the voting turnout or the quality of elections in general.
When thinking about lowering the voting age, the first thing that comes to mind is the maturity levels of most sixteen and seventeen year old students. It is very typical teenagers show less interest in politics and have far less political knowledge. For instance, in the Midterm Elections of 2014, only 19.9% of eighteen to twenty-four year olds voted, making this the lowest turnout rate since the 26th Amendment was passed, which lowered the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen. Supporters of lowering the voting age fail to realize that the majority of teens lack the drive to participate in government. Not only are most high school students unaware of current events in the political world, but there is an absence of experience that voters are in dire need of. Many would argue that 35 year olds are just as immature and uninformed as teenagers, however what those 35 year olds have compared to teenagers, is life experience in general. Many social scientists today, such as Matthew Clayton and Tak Wing Chan, graduates of the University of Oxford, state that most sixteen and seventeen year olds are not competent to vote because, “research in neuroscience suggests that the prefrontal cortex of the brain is still undergoing major reconstruction and development during this time.” For many of you unaware of what the prefrontal cortex does, it allows us to weigh dilemmas, balance trade-offs and in short, make reasonable decisions. When thinking about it, would you really want these teenagers to be making very important decisions that can majorly impact the government? Giving them the right to vote under these circumstances could be helpful for some, but for the majority of teens it would be very detrimental.
Another reason why lowering the voting age would not be favorable would be because of the education certain students receive. Not all high schools teach government the same, let alone teach it well. Nancy Pelosi argues that students are engaged and interested, but in all reality most students, according to surveys, do not know who their U.S. Senator is, or even how to amend the Constitution. If students are unable to answer basic information about governmental processes, do we really want them in the voting booth? Not only are most sixteen year olds uneducated across the political scene, but often times teachers are unable to leave their political views out, resulting in a biased source in which students aren’t seeing the full picture. By allowing students to vote at age 16, you risk having an election where the teenagers aren’t fully aware of what or who they are voting for.
By lowering the voting age to sixteen, teenagers are granted voting rights without a full understanding of the responsibilities that come with it. Many pressures and other obligations such as school, work, athletics and social events, may cause teenagers to not take time out of their schedule to update and inform themselves of the topics up for debate. Due to social media and the internet, teens today are exposed to large amounts of information however, just because they have this data, does not mean that they can comprehend it. For example, on the internet there are several biased news outlets, in which teens are often unable to decipher whether or not it is a credible source. Because they have unlimited access to biased sources, with little to no comprehension of the information, teens often make uninformed and rash decisions based off what they see.
Ultimately, changing the voting age to sixteen would be detrimental to the voting process, resulting in biased and unknowledgeable voting. In order to lower the voting age, there must be drastic changes and measures made to make sure the voters are informed. For example, allowing sixteen year olds to vote but requiring them to pass a basic citizenship test before going to the polls would make sure they are fully prepared. Until such steps have been taken, I fully believe that when discussing voting, with age comes maturity.
– Meg Rieschick, Political Science Major at Northwest Missouri State