Advocating for the right to vote isn’t easy, but we’ve put together a list of talking points that you can use whether you are talking to your friends and family or writing a speech to give at your city’s council meeting. We’ve also included academic articles and persuasive essays for those who want a more in-depth analysis. And be sure to check out our Top Ten Reasons to Lower the Voting Age as well!

Young people are directly affected by political decisions

  • The 26th Amendment to the US Constitution, which lowered the voting age to 18, was passed because of the clear double standard of making 18-year-olds fight for their country when they didn’t have a political voice. The idea that anyone directly affected by political decisions should have a right to voice their opinions on such decisions should not be limited to only military conscription.
  • Young people are most directly impacted by education policy. Students have a better understanding of what reforms are needed, but can’t even vote in school board elections.
  • Young people will live with the effects of climate change for longer and are more likely to live in poverty than adults, but have no voice in determining public policy decisions.
  • Young people pay taxes (including $730 million in income tax in 2011) and have no say on how that money is spent.
  • Many people 16 and younger are tried as adults and are placed in adult jails. If youth can be punished like adults, they should be given the rights of adults.

Young people demonstrate responsibility, maturity, and knowledge comparable to other voters

    • Over one million Americans under the age of 18 have jobs, often while attending school at the same time.
    • Sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds are allowed to drive in all 50 states.
    • A study of 16- and 17-year-old Americans showed that they are “generally indistinguishable in their capacities to function as citizens and to vote responsibly from the youngest adults (18-year-olds) who are entitled to vote…[and] that to deny 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote is arbitrary.”1 Daniel Hart and Robert Atkins, “American Sixteen- and Seventeen-Year-Olds Are Ready to Vote” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 633, no. 1 (2011): 201-222.
    • Young people are often taking classes in history, government, law, and/or economics which can help make them more informed voters.
    • Studies show 16-year-olds show adequate political knowledge to make informed decisions. In fact, 16-year-old Americans score higher in areas related to civic knowledge than those in their early twenties.2 Daniel Hart and Robert Atkins, “American Sixteen- and Seventeen-Year-Olds Are Ready to Vote” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 633, no. 1 (2011): 201-222.
    • The federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 states that:

      any person who has not been adjudged an incompetent and who has completed the sixth grade in a public school in, or a private school accredited by, any State or territory, the District of Columbia, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico where instruction is carried on predominantly in the English language, possesses sufficient literacy, comprehension, and intelligence to vote in any election.

    • Students who took participated the “We the People ” program, which is civics curriculum created by the Center for Civic Education, scored better than adults 18-80 in knowledge of government and politics:
Question WTP Students Answering Correctly Adults (18-80) Answering Correctly
Could name the vice-president 96% 74%
Understood the meaning of “Judicial Review” 96% 66%
Knew Two-Thirds Veto Override Requirement 87% 34%
Knew which political party controlled the House of Representatives 68% 68%
Could explain political party ideology 87% 57%

Young people will turnout to vote

Youth voting also increases voter turnout among adults

  • According to research done by CIRCLE (The Center For Information & Research On Civic Learning & Engagement), involving young people in election-related learning, activities and discussion can have an impact on the young person’s household, increasing the likelihood that others in the household will vote.
  • Studies conducted by the Kids Voting, a program that conducts civic education and mock elections in K-12, have shown that adult voters, including, but not limited to the parents of participating students, are more likely to turnout to elections has a result of the mock elections.
  • Because of the habitual nature of voting, 16 is a better age to introduce voting. At 18, many young people moving from one community to another. (This is especially true for college students who may register at home, but be living in another state come Election Day.) At 16, most people’s living arrangements are pretty stable as they are less likely to leave their community in the middle of high school. If citizens begin voting earlier, and get into the habit of doing so earlier, they are more likely to stick with it through life.

States are allowed to set their voting age below 18

  • Some people mistakenly believe that the 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution set the voting age at 18. However, it clearly states: “The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.” This only prohibits states and municipalities from setting a voting age above 18, it does not prevent states from lowering it.

Organizations and people that support lowering the voting age

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE)
FairVote
Generation Citizen
Roosevelt Institute
Unified Democracy
Vote16USA

San Francisco Youth Commission (Richmond, CA)
Richmond Youth Council (Richmond, CA)
Our CAPS Community Alliance for Peaceful Streets (Washington, DC)
United Teen Equality Center (Lowell, MA)

Ed Ableser, Arizona State Representative
Phyllis Kahn, former Minnesota State Representative
Javier Martínez, New Mexico State Representative
Ralph Nader, former Green Party Presidential Candidate
Nancy Pelosi, US Representative
Jill Stein, Green Party Presidential Candidate
George Soros, Investor and philanthropist
Richard Branson, Investor and philanthropist

Papers and Reports

Argumentative essays

Research studies

Quotes

No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a choice in the election of those who make the laws under which…we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined. – Wesberry v. Saunders (1964)

If 16-year-olds are old enough to drink the water polluted by the industries that you regulate, if 16-year-olds are old enough to breathe the air ruined by garbage burners that government built, if 16-year-olds are old enough to walk on the streets made unsafe by terrible drugs and crime policies, if 16-year-olds are old enough to live in poverty in the richest country in the world, if 16-year-olds are old enough to get sick in a country with the worst public health-care programs in the world, and if 16-year-olds are old enough to attend school districts that you underfund, then 16-year-olds are old enough to play a part in making them better. – Rebecca Tilsen

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