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Why Not Let Them Vote?

Robert Franklin

Posted on March 21, 2019 16:23

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Earlier this month, a bill was introduced by Rep. Ayanna Pressley that would have lowered the legal voting age to 16. It was defeated. Did Congress make a mistake?

There exists a strange balance in the United States between how old someone should be to legally do something and how old they are when that something begins to affect them. An 18-year-old can be coerced by recruiters to die for their country, but cannot legally purchase alcohol. It's perfectly legal for a 16-year-old to drive a car, but they have to wait five more years to rent a car to drive and nine more years to rent a car without a "young driver surcharge" (i.e. a distrust fee).

In some jurisdictions, teenagers can legally get married before they are legally old enough to have jobs.

In the United States, 6-year-olds can be gunned down in their classrooms, but have to wait 12 years before they can have a say in who represents them in Congress.

But even with that grim reality, young people around the country -- who are facing a litany of existential threats -- mobilize and protest and do everything in their limited power to make their voices heard. Look no further than the students suing the government over its failure to address climate change and the students who rally and organize community events in the wake of school shootings. The only thing these students cannot do to try to improve their communities and their world is participate in American democracy.

It was with this in mind that Freshman Rep. Ayanna Pressley introduced H.R. 1, which would have lowered the voting age for federal elections in the United States from 18 to 16, effective 2020. Democrats in the House narrowly supported it. Republicans in the House overwhelmingly opposed it.

Rep. Pressley's effort to enfranchise more young voters who have "earned inclusion in our Democracy" was defeated, 126 to 305.

I understand the skepticism. When I was 16, I was still in awe of anarchism and owned a pink ringer T-shirt with Mr. Rogers on the front. However, it's not as if I were completely oblivious to the state of national and international affairs. I was an avid news watcher since the Oklahoma City bombing and did plenty of reading and discussing of world events in the aftermath of 9/11. I knew enough to know that if I had been allowed to vote in 2004, I would have voted for John Kerry because I believed he was more qualified to handle the situation in the Middle East than the administration that used the Caroline Doctrine and questionable claims of WMDs to justify the invasion of Iraq.

I wasn't alone either. Many of us sought out the information, processed it, and discussed solutions. To be fair, we were a little rash about it, being 15, 16, and 17, after all.

The point of the anecdote is that just because someone is under voting age, doesn't mean their views aren't valid and worth Democratic participation. Turning 18 doesn't automatically grant someone an unwavering baseline of political knowledge.

After all, Ben Shapiro and Dave Rubin vote.

Robert Franklin

Posted on March 21, 2019 16:23

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Source: NYT
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Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, during an election campaign event in Tokyo on Saturday.

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