Graham Anderson at Brown University wrote another excellent voting age column. He makes a lot of key arguments and addresses many key misconceptions about the voting age.
A few gems:
Someone told me that a child would vote based on whether a candidate’s name was funny. But have we not already seen adults who say they will not vote for someone because his middle name is Hussein?
In one argument, parents might force their children to vote for a certain proposal or candidate by withholding anything from food to video games. Following that line of logic, would not the parents of college students, paying upwards of $50,000 a year on education alone, force their children to vote one way with the same threats?
And this great part, really the meat of his argument, that if adults are seen as representing youth, then they need to take that job seriously:
[T]he most reasonable argument given to me in favor of disenfranchising those under 18 was that they are already virtually represented in our government. Parents vote in their children’s interests and thus children are represented, the argument goes.
To believe that children are virtually represented, though, means that your vote is not entirely your own. For virtual representation to actually work as a form of representation instead of just being exclusion, you have to vote partially on behalf of the disenfranchised. You become the representative of the disenfranchised.
This means going beyond passively thinking, “I’ll vote this way because I think it will be good for kids.” You have to actually ask people under the age of 18 how they want you to vote, and substantively incorporate their input in how you vote.
Have you ever done that?
I indeed can not recall an instance when someone asked me how to vote, and certainly not when I was younger than 18. We perceive voting as an entirely individual action – one man, one vote. But if you truly believe that nobody under the age of 18 should have the right to vote and that everyone under the age of 18 is still represented in our government, then you have a responsibility to consult with those under the age of 18 on how you should vote. You have to actually go out and vote, at least partially, on their behalf.
In practice, I think it is absurd to be able to vote partially on behalf of others. But as it stands, we have a responsibility to try and do so. I ask you before voting to call a younger sibling and ask how they want you to vote, or stand outside of a middle school and ask students how they want you to vote.
I am sincere in asking this, and I am sure that by you will gain a greater appreciation of the capacity of minors to help determine how our society is governed.
Obviously no one actually does this. Graham is right to point out the insincerity of this argument. No one really believes youth are well represented by the current system, they just throw this argument out there as they grasp for straws trying to justify the current disenfranchisement of youth. But if they want to be serious about representing youth, then by all means, follow Graham’s advice.