Lower the voting age

Students have too little input on their future

(Information found on World Atlas) 
Infographic by Taylor Olson

(Information found on World Atlas) Infographic by Taylor Olson

Cordelia Lawton, News Editor

Immature. Inexperienced. Influenced. All of these words are used to prevent teenagers from being able to vote.
Lowering the voting age is an idea that is rarely discussed, as teenagers have no voice in politics without the ability to vote. This is starting to change with democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who addresses the issue in his campaign.
Voting decides school policy, laws within states and policies nationwide, all of which have lasting impacts. Why, then, can students not be involved in the policies that will affect their own future? Without their votes, politicians have no incentive to listen to what the future generations want.
“I think that the biggest argument is that 16-year-olds are not mature enough to know who they would want to vote for, that they might be influenced by other people because [they] are perhaps more impressionable than someone who’s of legal age,” Government teacher Julia Braxton said.
Sixteen-year-olds are allowed to drive in several states. It’s funny that they’re considered mature enough to drive, yet too immature to vote. Being able to drive suggests students are also independent enough to form their own opinions.
Others think 16-year-olds shouldn’t vote because they aren’t living on their own and paying taxes. In reality, some students do have jobs and pay taxes.
“Everything that happens in government still affects them whether they’re paying taxes or not, and they soon will be paying taxes,” senior Grace White said.
National elections have a significant impact on students’ lives, but local and school elections have an even larger one.
“The Fairfax County Board of Directors makes a lot of decisions: when to start school, how many snow days and how much tax money should go to school,” German teacher Karen Wolpert said.
Wolpert thinks the voting age should be lowered, but gradually. She said 14-year-olds should be able to vote in school elections, 16-year-olds in local and state elections and then 18-year-olds in national elections.
“You should learn things step by step,” Wolpert said. “You get involved in the very local politics of your school first.”
Local elections are arguably more important than national elections as legislation directly affects everyone within that state. It would make more sense for students to be able to vote in both. If they’re able to handle local elections, then they can handle less impactful national elections.
The scope of issues addressed by the different levels of elections vary and build on each other. There usually are two to three candidates to chose from. It’s hard to believe that 16-year-olds are incapable of deciding between two different people and voting for the one in their best interest.
A lot of high school students are politically active and getting involved in movements like March for Our Lives and the Fridays for Future climate strikes, even when they don’t have the power to vote. These students deserve to be listened to, and those who aren’t civically active or politically informed are unlikely to vote.
“I feel it’s best that they push forward voting and things that [allow the government] to have a mind on the future,” senior Nathan Zhu said.
Braxton is concerned by the lack of a nationwide requirement to take a high school government class. Most students have only been taught world history by age 16.
“I think that if we’re going to lower the voting age, there needs to be some minimum requirements across the country to be able to educate people to make the right decision, or the decision that is in their best interest,” Braxton said.
It’s important to remember that government classes haven’t been required nationwide in the past, so generations have voted and are voting without ever taking one. Let’s modify the curriculum and lower the voting age to allow for a more educated electorate.