Opinion: Should Teens Be Allowed to Vote?

Opinion: Should Teens Be Allowed to Vote?

Kate Wasson , Editor-at-Large

Every presidential candidate knows that the two hardest things to win over are swing states and millennials.

Millennial voters (voters  from the ages of 18 to 30) are considered to be a distant generation in politics. Most of them don’t remember the Bush administration, the Iraq War, 9/11 or they simply don’t care. As for the rest of the country, they remember these events and still feel their impact.

Sure, millennials are the smartest and most diverse generation (CNBC, Advocates for Youth) but are they in any position to be voting? And should they really represent an entirely new generation? How can one generation vote for an entirely different one?

The answer is they can’t- one generation should not be voting for a another. They should have their own separate vote. This same question brought to light the 26th Amendment, which permits 18-year-olds to vote. So why can’t the same apply here?

One of the core arguments for permitting 18-year-olds to vote was that politics affected them. But, in reality, politics affects us, 16-year-olds, too.

Legislation on the cars we drive, the taxes on things we buy ourselves, the minimum wage jobs that we have and the president who will be representing us are all issues that affect teenagers.

So what are the effects of lowering the voting age? There are no consequences to this legislation, only benefits.

A study by Civic Youth found that teenagers voting can also act as a catalyst for civic involvement in the long run.

“Not only did Kid Voting effects persist, they increased for some measures of cognition and deliberative habits, along with partisanship and ideology,” the study read. “The nature of Kids Voting influence involves the induction of habits that are self-perpetuating.”

By permitting young teenagers to vote, it allows them to be in the habit of voting, which increases the voting turnout and the number of citizens engaged in our political system.

Alongside the increased voting turnout, if given the right to vote, young voters will be  placed in an environment where they are able to express their opinions and learn more about our government.

“Students remained receptive to independent learning opportunities that came along later, such as new controversies or the eruption of political debate at home or with friends,” the Civic Youth Study reads.

As shown throughout the study conducted by Civic Youth, there is a profusion of interest and care into the issues and politics by simply allowing the student to feel as if their opinions and their thoughts, which had always existed, truly matter.

So it’s a fact: everyone has an opinion about politics, but how much of that opinion is their own? Growing up in a setting where talking about current events can have you shushed in front of the class, can indoctrinate and force students to halt their analysis of politics and make them disbelieve in their own opinions. Who knew rejection and indoctrination isn’t good for the teenage soul?

“My view is that if you’re going to have students involved in authentic politics, then it’s really important to make sure you have issues for which there are multiple and competing views, and you don’t give students the impression that there’s a political view that they should be working toward,” Paula McAvory, author of The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education, told NPR.

By allowing younger teenagers to vote, they are exposed to an environment at school where they are freely able to discuss their political views because they’ll be voting on them come election season – whether it’s the Presidential, Senate or Mayoral Election. My prediction? High schools will have an environment closely related to colleges, where students can sign up for Democrat and Republican clubs, like Yale University has.

My theory? Young teenage voting will end racism. Now, I know it sounds far-fetched, but it’s the path we need to take to end the centuries long battle of hatred towards people of different races, religions, genders and sexualities.

By permitting young teenagers to vote, they will develop their own, personal opinions, while being exposed to the world around them, instead of confining them behind the cardboard cutout of the ‘perfect world’ that we don’t live in, or being blinded by the ideas that have been passed down to them. This is why, even in 2016, we still have this deep hatred- that seems as if it’s been passed down like an heirloom.

If you are looking for ways to end hatred, racism, xenophobia, sexism, let us vote. Our predecessors have already tainted the world that we will have to fix someday, the least they could do is let us try to fix it now.

In the words of Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future.”