Can We Afford to Lower the Voting Age for Teens Under the Age of 18?

Screenshot (1)By: Jesse Smith

Since I was very young, work has been a part of my everyday life. I have been employed since I was fourteen and had been working on my farm since I was ten. Getting that paycheck every two weeks was nice, it put a little extra money in my pocket to spend it on what I needed, not to mention it was nice to brag to my friends because I was always the one with the money. Life was great I had everything I wanted until I finally started looking at my paychecks more closely. I had noticed that on every paycheck the government took out a little bit of what I had made, things such as social security tax, and Medicare tax. At the time I didn’t know what these were for and it made me angry because the government was taking money from me that I had earned by working hard. I wanted to change this but there was nothing I could do because I couldn’t vote. When I was in high school I thought that the voting age should be lowered because there was millions of teens in the United States that were not being properly represented. I had this idea of lowering the voting age to fourteen for about four years until I got to college. I researched the idea of lowering the voting age and found, the United State cannot afford to lower the voting age any further.

The idea of lowering the voting age looks like a cool idea to teens, but research shows that teens don’t have a very big interest in politics at all. Melissa S. Kovacs and Daniel M. Shea from Tufts University found that when the voting age was lowered to eighteen age groups 18-29 had the least interest in politics (Kovacs, Shea 2). Not only were they uninterested but they also had the lowest voter turnout of all other age groups. I was one of the few in my high school that did enjoy politics, but as I look back I realize that all the kids in my high school were too worried about how they were going to play in their next football game or who was going to win homecoming king and queen. No one in my school ever talked about who was going to win the next election or what each candidate even stood for. Many of the kids I graduated with weren’t event registered voters and they weren’t planning on doing it anytime soon.

What about the kids that did care about politics though? Like myself there were a small number of kids in my high school that were into politics. Even though we wanted to vote and felt we had the right to, we would never admit that our brains were not fully developed. During teen years the brains emotional senses are at its highest, higher than children and adults. Due to these emotions teens are more likely to act on impulses rather than making rational decisions (National Institute of Mental Health par. 14).  In high school I would have never believed that. If you asked me then, I would have told you I was as smart as I’d ever be and that I knew everything. If you ask me now I will, completely admit that I was wrong I know now that no one knows everything and that we are all constantly learning. The reason I thought that way in high school wasn’t just me being stubborn, but I actually believed that. This was because my emotions were at its highest and my brain wasn’t developed enough to understand it.  I admit that my brain isn’t fully developed today but it has changed a lot since I was in high school.

The majority of teens don’t care about politics and the few that do, like all teens, have heightened emotions and can’t make rational decisions. These aren’t the only reasons that they should be kept from voting though, and it’s partly our fault as a country. Teens In high school aren’t being educated enough in school to make wise votes. When I was in high school I was only required to take one government class, it was also the only government class offered to students. This class was only a semester long and the majority of the time we were just learning the names of all the presidents. This class felt more like a presidential history class, barley even talking about current events in politics and how they work. Schools are focusing too much on civic engagement which they believe can just replace civic learning (Downs 344). Schools are just expecting students to eventually just get involved in politics hoping they will pick things up as they go. This is not educating our student though. This would be like throwing a person into a job without showing them how to do it first. In the election of 1972, the first year eighteen year olds could vote, the majority of these teens said they voted like their parents because they didn’t know enough about politics themselves to make an educated vote (Armstrong, et al 1).  I wasn’t any different when I turned eighteen I voted for Obama not based on what his political stance was or what policies he stood for, I didn’t know enough about him to do that. Instead I voted for him because he seemed more honest than the other candidates.

Our government has come a long way in terms of voting rights, but they cannot afford to lower the voting age even further. There will be teens who think this is unfair and that they are not being represented properly, but given time they will realize that they are too young. We cannot allow these uninterested and undereducated teens to vote. They will be voting based on their heightened emotions and will not make logical educated votes. The nation will be changed in a negative manner if this is to happen.

Works Cited

Armstrong, Abbigail, Tiffany Houchin, et al. “Examining Trends in Youth Voting: The Effect of Turnout, Competition, and Candidate Attributes on 18-24 voters from 1972-2004.” Southern Political Science Association. (2008): 1-6. Web. 12 Nov. 2013.

Downs, Donald. “Civic Education Versus Civic Engagement.” Academic Questions 25.3 (2012): 343-347. Academic Search Complete. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.

Kovacs, Melissa and Daniel Shea. “Youth Attitudes towards Civility in Politics.” Tufts University, 2010. New York: CIRCLE, 2001. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.

“The Teen Brain: Still Under Construction.” National Institute of Mental Health. National Institute of Mental Health, 2013. Web. 12 Nov 2013.


6 thoughts on “Can We Afford to Lower the Voting Age for Teens Under the Age of 18?

  1. You make some very interesting points and I agree with you for the most part.
    However, I feel that you left out a very important part of the argument and make a pretty broad assumption as far as the voters are concerned.
    You say that the inability of teens to understand policy and develop an opinion is virtually nonexistent which is due primarily to the presence of a heightened emotional state. Simply because a person has a heightened emotional states does not necessarily equate to them having an invalid opinion.
    Also, the broad assumption you make is that adult voters are somewhat more justified in voting because of either their intelligence or the amount of emotional control they maintain. It is often the case that adults are just as illogical and emotionally driven as teenagers are on some topics. For example, adults will riot in the streets because of a tax increase and teenagers will sign online petitions to stop internet censorship. It’s a matter of priority; adults care about how much comes out of their paycheck since money drives their lives and teens care about what they can see on the internet because (a lot of times) that’s what is important to them.
    As far as I’m concerned, I don’t really give much thought to politics on a day to day basis. When the time comes, I will weigh my options and take into account all the necessary variables with the primary focus being on the ones that influence me the most as most voters do. If a candidate is present that I agree with, I vote for them. Otherwise, I will just keep my vote to myself. Voting simply because another person you know voted one way, or that you are pressured, or because it’s a privilege you have to use, is considered being highly irresponsible. You might as well be throwing your vote away.
    Otherwise, excellent article!

  2. I agree. The right to vote is earned at the age of adulthood. Allowing a fourteen year old to vote would be the equivalent of telling them they are an adult and no longer need parent supervision. It’s also true that either they would not desire to vote, or they would simply vote as their parents do and that is not helping our country at all. It may be true that they are not being properly represent in some cases or perhaps not considered in many political disputes but the whole point is for them to grow older, with these same issues in mind and change the country for the better once they are an adult.

  3. I have personally never been too interested in politics, and since I have always been a nanny who gets paid in cash, taxes haven’t been a large part of my worries either. I am actually still not sure where I stand on this topic. Fourteen sounds like an extremely young age to be able to vote. When I was fourteen, politics was the farthest thing from my friends and my mind. We were more worried about dances, boys, and the Friday night basketball game. I cringe at the thought of the power of the vote being thrown into my hands at that age. However, you make valid points. There are plenty of young kids in our world who are put to work as early as 14 years old. Perhaps, there are a few fourteen year olds in our country who are mature enough and ready to vote, but I think the best idea would be to let them hold onto their ideas until they are of voting age. Who knows, as on many other topics to young teenagers, their views could change in those years.

  4. I enjoyed reading this paper, Jesse! I didn’t know that teenage brains are at their highest emotional point… that explains a lot. Though I’m glad you mentioned that not just teenagers are sometimes crazy, adults can be as well. One more fantastic idea you mentioned is just because teens are at their highest emotional point, their opinions aren’t completely invalid. Another thing I appreciated in your paper was bring up the issue of students not being taught much about politics in school. “Schools are focusing too much on civic engagement which they believe can just replace civic learning” is a fabulous quote, I completely agree with it. You did a great job representing your view!

  5. I believe that if persons under the age of 18 desire the right to vote they should be required to pass an examination or series of tests to assure that they like you pointed out are mature enough and not thinking emotionally. “The majority of teens don’t care about politics and the few that do, like all teens, have heightened emotions and can’t make rational decisions.” Yet, then again many people who are of age to vote, 18, still don’t really have knowledge or interest in/of politics. Should everyone be required to obtain a passing grade on some sort of examination that enables them to vote? No, we are unable to do this because it would then go back to, or someone would draw the lines, between this proposal and those of the early years of our country when similar regulations were used to bar black citizens from voting. I believe 25 is decent age choice because at 18 the brain still has about 7 more years of development until it is scientifically considered to be mature.

  6. Overall I really enjoyed you blog post! You made some very good points. I as well took a government class in high school, but personally do not enjoy politics or history in general. Although this being a factor, taking a government class did increase my knowledge and I was able to make a more educated vote on who I thought was the best likely president to run the country. Having a required government class in high schools is something that needs to continue and if schools do not have it as a requirement I think it needs to be required. Even if students do not like history, like myself, it does educate you and can help you make a more informed decision when you are able to vote. One thing I disagreed on would be the part where you said younger people’s brains are not fully developed so they wouldn’t be able to make the most rational decision. I think that if you are education on that specific subject I think you are capable of making a rational decision. Yes, their brain is still developing, but I don’t think that handicaps them from making decisions like that. Knowledge is everything. This was a great read!

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