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Youth Rights 101, Part 4: The Right to Vote

Written by Katrina Moncure Feb 13, 2012

This is part of the Youth Rights 101 series. Please check out Youth Rights 101: Introduction for the rest of the series and more information.

Is it really so important for youth to have the right to vote?

Of course! While some may debate how low the voting age should go, under what conditions, and other factors, what we do know is 18 is too high a voting age, that those below that age should have a true voice and say in our government.

Some campaigns seek to lower the voting age just for school board or other education-related issues, as the students are the most directly affected and most likely to have greater insight as to the conditions and needs of their own schools, yet they have less say than adults in their communities who aren’t students, teachers, or parents, who wouldn’t likely know much or anything about what the school needs.

Voting rights are seen as the “consent of the governed”, that voters give their consent to the laws to which they are subject by voting in the legislators, but those under 18, who are subject to even more restrictions, are unable to vote, thus never gave their consent to these restrictions, and thus these restrictions are (more) unjust.

Some say youth don’t have the necessary political knowledge to vote, yet they don’t stop adults who don’t meet this standard from voting.

Some say youth don’t have the maturity to vote, yet they do not define this maturity nor stop adults who don’t meet this mysterious maturity standard from voting.

Some say youth would be pressured by parents to vote a certain way, yet they assume adults are never so pressured, by parents or others.

Teen workers must still pay income tax, but without the right to vote, this is taxation without representation!

People under 18 are often subject to being charged “as adults” for crimes, meaning young people are welcome to join adults in prison but not at the polling place.

The right to vote is considered such an essential right that it may only be withheld if there is some compelling state interest, yet what compelling state interest there is in stopping those under 18 from voting has never been made clear, not in any way that hasn’t been easily-defeatable excuses.

Benefits to a lower voting age include:
-requiring political candidates truly listen to youth
-earlier start to voting encourages habit of always voting and caring about issues
-teens voting might encourage non-voting and/or apathetic parents to vote and care about issues
-increased voter turnout
-reduction in anti-youth legislation
-true youth empowerment that helps teen self-worth
-and many many more.

The current voting age, like most or all other age restrictions, exists primarily due to the prevailing idea that those under a certain age are “other”, are not as entitled to equal respect or consideration as those older, and that giving them any real power is somehow dangerous. But in reality, how the current voting age truly benefits adults or youth is unclear, far from compelling interest, and thus it should definitely be lowered, maybe even abolished entirely.

So what do you think? What other ways is lowering or abolishing the voting age beneficial and necessary? Tell us in the comments!

See Also:
Top Ten Reasons to Lower the Voting Age
Our Voting Age page
Our Voting Age forum
Our Voting Age blog posts and articles
Our collection of Voting Age papers and research
Vote 17 Lowell
Votes at 16 (UK)
The Disenfranchised

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