Should there be an amendment to the Constitution to forbid voting rights discrimination on the basis of age? Should the legal age be lowered to age 16?
The argument that youth are vulnerable to adult influence, coersion and mistreatment by adults to make us unable to vote independently was the same argument used to keep minorities and women from voting until the late 20th century. Recent actions by this administration, legislators, the president and our recent Supreme Court judge, demonstrate our government is still treating over half of the population as second-class citizens. Illegally purging voter registrations puts the power in the hands of a few, often the wealthy and special interests groups, and not representing the majority of Americans.
More than a dozen countries, including Brazil, Scotland and Austria, allow voters 16 years of age to vote in national elections. Arizona, Minnesota, North Dakota and Michigan all have measures to lower the voting age on their ballots. In Washington, D.C., students are pre-registered with school enrollment. If Selective Service draft registration is required at 18, why not have voting registration required at 16?
It is said, “Voting requires a level of reasoning ”
However, adults do not have to prove any level of reasoning or intellect to vote. A large percentage of adults don’t even read their ballot measures or investigate a topic any further than a sound bite off TV or on Facebook, which is full of “fake news.”
I will be on this Earth, breathing the air and drinking the water, long after our legislators are gone. However, I can’t vote to protect the environment. The EPA has dismantled protections in favor of corporations’ rights over human rights and the environment. This was evident in pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, not recognizing basic science and climate change, and the police brutality toward demonstrators of the Dakota Access Pipeline through Native American land, breaking the Dakota Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851.
We are required to attend public schools but cannot vote to improve them. School shootings are on the rise, yet we cannot vote for our own safety or gun reform. Did our student protests not prove we are capable of informed voting?
If a teenager commits a crime, we can face full sentencing as an adult — but cannot vote. If youths are capable of being tried as adults, doesn’t it stand to reason they are capable of decision-making to vote? A court has determined the person is mature enough to understand one’s choices and consequences for our actions. Should we not have a say in the laws we must abide?
At age 16, we can work, pay into Social Security and are required to pay taxes. But we cannot vote to say how the funds are to be managed. Working teenagers are modern examples of taxation without representation. Adults can rob our future without losing a single vote.
Poverty among young people exceeds that in all other age groups, yet the government spends 10 times more on each poor senior than it does on each poor child. Youth programs are the first to be cut. We have no AARP to lobby for us.
The budget deficit is unfair to young Americans. The government is passing trillions of dollars of debt onto our youths. That is not something a responsible adult would choose. Government should be run on a balanced budget and not in the red!
Perhaps half of adults do not vote because they were not taught it was their civic duty at an early age. Churches begin indoctrinating beliefs at birth. If voting was expected at an earlier age, more citizens might participate. Our school is demonstrating our ability to learn about issues, the voting process, and our own capabilities to use reason and become informed by participating in this event today.
I believe our generation has demonstrated we are ready! This generation is actively engaged in our communities and issues that impact our lives. Students are more innovative in science, finding solutions to environmental problems, and community service. There have also been more protests, marches and acts of civil disobedience during this administration, that are led by youth, led by my generation wanting to have an effective change and be heard, because we cannot vote to make our voices known.
Amelia Wilkinson is an eighth-grade student at Ashland Middle School.