The following editorial was originally published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday, July 1, 2018 as part of the "Raise Your Hand" column in the Insights section.
By: May Song
Kaiser High School, Class of 2020
In a study conducted by Pew Research, the United States placed 31st in voter turnout out of the world’s top 34 developed countries. To combat such a low turnout rate, many have proposed that we lower the voting age from 18 to 16. Lawmakers in Michigan and Washington D.C. have introduced such a piece of legislation. The call for this measure has only been heightened by the efforts of students from Stoneman Douglas High School, who are fighting for stricter gun control measures but cannot vote for them.
If voting privileges were extended to 16-year-olds, voter turnout would increase. According to UC Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project, only 50-60% percent of the voting population in America casts their ballots in the presidential elections. Lowering the voting age would ameliorate this problem and ensure that all citizens are represented in an election. Younger generations have proven to have more initiative to vote, according to a study done in Denmark. 18-year-olds were far more likely to cast their “first vote” than 19-year-olds, and every month of extra age in those years resulted in a decline in “first vote” turnout. Takoma Park, Maryland lowered its voting age to 16 in 2013, and found that registered voters under 18 had a turnout four times higher than that of voters over 18. Researchers from the Austrian Science Fund found that lowering the voting age did not have a negative impact on input legitimacy and the quality of democratic decisions.
Additionally, younger citizens are increasingly more involved in politics and activism as time progresses. According to a 2012 study done by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, a majority of teens are involved in improving their communities through fundraising, volunteering, or community problem solving. They also spend time at school learning about critical citizenship and media literacy and how to evaluate information online. t71% of teens have volunteered and 61% have worked with others to solve problems affecting their school, city, or neighborhood. All of these statistics, the study concluded, point to the conclusion that teens of this day and age are far more likely to be politically engaged.
One might argue that citizens under the age of 18 are simply too immature or easily swayed. With the presence of social media in teens’ lives, it seems doubtful that teens do not get influenced by what they see on the Internet. However, we must place more faith in these young citizens. Rather than denouncing them as immature, we should instead look at what is needed to make a “good vote.” When citizens vote or make an informed decision, they utilize their cold cognitive abilities, which are used in calm situations where the ability to reason logically with facts is of utmost importance. Studies of cold cognition, according to American Psychologist, have shown that the skills necessary to make such informed decisions are firmly in place by the age of 16.
It is in our nation’s best interest to lower the voting age. Not only has our nation lowered the voting age before,but statistics consistently illustrate how having younger votes increases the voter turnout. If we truly are a nation of democracy and innovation, we should recognize that adolescents are increasingly engaged in politics and willing to take an active stance on their beliefs.