16-Year-Olds Want a Vote. Fifty Years Ago, So Did 18-Year-Olds.
May 19, 2019 4:06 PM   Subscribe

“A lot of 16-year-olds are working and getting taxed,” said Ema Smith, 19, a freshman at Yale who, in high school, helped lead a successful campaign to lower the voting age for local elections in Greenbelt, Md. “People tend to focus on at 18 you can join the military, but there are a lot of things happening at 16.” (NYT)

Oregon Getting Close to Becoming First State to Change Legal Voting Age to 16 (Newsweek, February 20, 2019)
“Why can I drive like an adult, pay taxes like an adult, have an abortion like an adult, be charged and sentenced like an adult, but I can’t vote like an adult?” asked La Salle High School student Christine Bynum, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Oregon Teens Push for Lowering Voting Age to 16 (US News & World Report, March 27, 2019)
The idea to lower the voting age has picked up some national support, gaining the endorsement of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A push to lower the voting age on the federal level fell short earlier this month.
Somerville passes measure to lower voting age to 16, but hurdles remain (Boston Globe, May 10, 2019)
“They have so much to offer; they have been out there leading the charge for social equity and social progress,” he said. “They’re showing us in so many ways what leadership looks like.” [...] US Representative Ayanna Pressley, whose district includes Somerville, recently pushed an amendment in Congress that would lower the voting age in federal elections to 16. But there was not a great appetite for the idea even in the Democrat-controlled US House, and the amendment failed, 305-126.
posted by Little Dawn (73 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
Another article on the Somerville initiative, without Globe restrictions.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:29 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


But opponents say that teens aren't mature enough to understand the political process, and that they're too young to own property or enlist in the military. Republicans add that the move is a Democratic bid to get more liberal voters.

"People are not legally considered adults in this country until they are 18 years old, and I believe they shouldn't be able to vote until then either," said Oregon Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger, Jr., of Grants Pass. "This is nothing more than an attempt to expand the voter rolls to sway elections."


I guess the age used to be set high because they don't think a person that young can make a good decision? But how good are the decisions we're all making now? I only recently started googling the name of the people on the ballot before voting, and that's only because I live in a place with voting by mail now. I'm pretty sure most people don't know who they're voting for at all, except for maybe President?

Also I can't believe how Republicans just spout this "Oh, this is just political, they just want more people to vote so they can vote us out of office, pfufff" without realizing how badly they're telling on themselves. It's such a clear and loud self-own.
posted by bleep at 4:54 PM on May 19 [24 favorites]


Not to mention I knew more about the political system at 16 then I ever would again (well except for how much of it I've been forced to find out in order to understand the president's many crimes) because that's when we got taught about it in Civics class.
posted by bleep at 4:58 PM on May 19 [23 favorites]


From CNN (February 19, 2019)
Turnout among young voters (ages 18 to 29) is consistently lower than other age groups, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

However, young voter turnout for the 2018 midterms was unusually high at 31%, and they overwhelmingly favored Democratic candidates, the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement found.

The District of Columbia suburb of Takoma Park, Maryland, was the first US city to drop the age minimum to 16. In the first election after the law was passed, registered 16- and 17-year-olds had a 44% turnout compared to the 11% overall turnout rate in 2013, said Brian Conner, president of the National Youth Rights Association. "When they have been given the right to vote, they have high turnout," Conner said.
posted by Little Dawn at 5:06 PM on May 19 [8 favorites]


Giving more people the vote will dilute the effects of voter fraud, Republicans should embrace it as another prong in our attack on the national existential threat of fraudulence in our elections.
posted by axiom at 5:11 PM on May 19 [11 favorites]


I seem to recall that I had a very clear concept of how things should be at age sixteen; unburdened by gray areas, unimpressed by political pundits, and not clouded by "adult judgement" brought on by social or employer pressure. It may have been the only time I had a clear vision of the way ahead.

Now it's like a freeway with way too many billboards, and too much bird shit on the windshield.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:16 PM on May 19 [14 favorites]


--EXT: STREET

TEENAGER #1: I'm sixteen, I'm old enough to marry and have children, but I can't drink in pubs. When will the government wake up and realize that young adults are mature and responsible people?

TEENAGER #2: I'm sixteen, right? I can join the Army, the Air Force and the Navy... but I can't drink in pubs. When will the government, right, realize that young adults have a valued contribution to give to society?

[This TEENAGER is sniffing glue. He reacts visibly before speaking.]
TEENAGER #3: A lot of people say that young adults are violent, right? But how would you feel if you were old enough to have... intercourse with the partner of your choice... and yet you could not drink in pubs?
posted by glonous keming at 5:25 PM on May 19 [12 favorites]


I am on board with this. Also, I think if you are a citizen you have an inalienable right to vote, no one can take it from you for any reason. The Australian idea of requiring people to vote is worth considering as well.
posted by Bee'sWing at 5:26 PM on May 19 [13 favorites]


Adults worry that kids will just vote according to their parents' values, and that especially Republican parents with means could engineer enough income to get their kids the vote (if that's the criterion).

But I remember feeling strongly about this when I was working towards the end of high school, and I'm in favor of deeper civic engagement earlier.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:26 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


People with dementia are allowed to vote.
posted by srboisvert at 5:40 PM on May 19 [38 favorites]


Adults worry that kids will just vote according to their parents' values, and that especially Republican parents with means could engineer enough income to get their kids the vote (if that's the criterion).

This was also an argument against voting rights for women—that they’d just double up on their husbands’ votes.
posted by Orlop at 5:47 PM on May 19 [38 favorites]


If supposed immaturity is enough to bar voting, how on earth are people under eighteen tried as adults?
posted by notsnot at 5:58 PM on May 19 [26 favorites]


I'm opposed to this. Teens' brains aren't fully developed. Maybe we should be raising the enlistment age to 25, rejigging the juvi/adult criminal justice system, etc, along with the voting age. But throwing all reason to the wind doesn't strike me as particularly useful.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 6:00 PM on May 19 [15 favorites]


It might end up helping establish the habit of voting. 16 yr olds are more likely to be living at home and have parents take them to vote, while people that are over 18 are more likely to be living with people their own age who probably aren't voting either. I wouldn't be surprised if going to vote the first time you are able sets a pattern of voting that persists later on.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:02 PM on May 19 [22 favorites]


glonous keming: I saw someone with a Nosin’ Around t-shirt the other day and just about died of envy.
posted by pompomtom at 6:05 PM on May 19 [6 favorites]


Ok Hal Munkin teen brains are not fully developed but what about the other side of life where the brain deteriorates as it ages to the point of feebleness: Persons with dementia are allowed to vote.
posted by robbyrobs at 6:07 PM on May 19 [23 favorites]


I'm in deep agreement with the idea that "Adulthood" should be delayed until 26 because of that brain development thing; but I've also met many people under 25 that are more developed than many people over 30.

And now we're talking about a whole different sort of voting test.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 6:15 PM on May 19 [5 favorites]


But teen minds are if anything more curious, dynamic and idealistic for their want of development and experience. I don't think that involving young adults a bit earlier would necessarily be a bad thing as a counterbalance to the disaffected and cynically partisan voting patterns of older cohorts, and make them feel like real stakeholders earlier. It's not as if their our brains are suddenly more developed at 18 yrs and 1 month than 17 years and 11 months.

It would also drive interesting conversations in the household, to the extent adolescents are resistant rather than captive to their upbringing. The parents would more often be challenged to justify their views as policy in action rather than ideology, and if kids were doing that earlier they might emerge with less received politics -- 'why should I vote for this?' Rather than, this is what my party's platform is this cycle.

And with the extent to which reproductive, gendered and sexual politics have become the battleground for the culture wars: 'if you are old enough to be fighting, you are old enough to be voting' translates to 'if you are old enough to be fucking, you are old enough to be voting.'*

Sixteen sounds about right under that rubric.

*to say nothing about the possibility of being tried and sentenced as an adult for some crimes.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:17 PM on May 19 [14 favorites]


Just look at XR - they're deadly serious about getting involved in the political process, altho' I suspect most of them know that normal politics as practiced by adults is little more than a delaying mechanism.

Immaturity doesn't seem to be a barrier for getting voted in nowadays either, let alone senility.
posted by unearthed at 6:27 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


I'm opposed to this. Teens' brains aren't fully developed.

That article uses Good judgment isn’t something they can excel in as a description of this supposed inadequate brain development. But how good is the judgment of people who voted for “Climate change is a Chinese hoax” or “We'll build a wall and Mexico will pay for it!” Or the judgment of adults eligible to vote who did not in the face of that stuff.

To say nothing of measures that are more conventionally attributed to adulthood and maturity like responsibility, knowledge of and respect for right and wrong, or accepting and dealing with the consequences of one's actions.

Adults have disqualified themselves from the characteristics that are supposedly the reasons for them to exclusively have the right to vote.
posted by XMLicious at 6:32 PM on May 19 [21 favorites]


It's taken a damned long time to get later start times for high schools. People under 18 should at least be able to vote on matters that affect them directly.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:33 PM on May 19 [8 favorites]


I thinks votes should be weighted by how long you’ll have to live with the consequences. Teens get a full vote. At 40 your vote only counts as half. After 60 you get a quarter.
posted by rodlymight at 6:45 PM on May 19 [44 favorites]


I'm noticing that the language used here is “join the military” and “enlist in the military”, but the actual state of affairs is “eligible for conscription into the military.”
posted by XMLicious at 6:57 PM on May 19 [14 favorites]


If we can tax people at age 16, then I'm thinking our system requires that they also have a right to vote. "No taxation without representation" is a core American concept, and it was also a slogan used by the Women's Suffrage movement:
Lucy Stone believed in the saying "No taxation without representation". Stone didn't pay the taxes for her house because she felt that since she couldn't vote, she was being taxed without having representation.
posted by Little Dawn at 7:42 PM on May 19 [18 favorites]


Nobody should be able to be charged as an adult in a crime who is not of an age to vote. I'm okay with either of those things shifting which direction they occur in. Anybody who is responsible enough for their decisions to be sentenced to life in prison is responsible enough for their decisions to vote. For me, this is the biggest thing because this is the area in which we are literally staking the rest of an individual's life on their ability to be responsible for their own decisions. If at that most important point we're saying they're responsible, then we can't say they aren't ready to vote.

The tax thing doesn't really sway me because technically all children are responsible for the tax on their incomes, it's just the parents are responsible for making sure it gets paid. It's not like it's just 16-year-olds and up. Every kid with a couple bucks in a convenience store pays sales tax, every child's income is taxed... these are not a good dividing line.
posted by Sequence at 8:21 PM on May 19 [10 favorites]


Tough one.
My grandmother ferried model-Ts, drove an REO Speedwagon (fire truck), an airplane, spoke 3 languages, a high school graduate, met Henry Ford, Billy Durant and the first lady, all by age 16. (1921) Hell, Fred Green knew her by her first name. But she couldn't vote.

By her 18th birthday (1923,) she could vote. She did and never let it go to waste.

But I'm not convinced. The no taxation who- ha doesn't fly, as were not colonists but I'm giving that a wide birth giving current events.
I could smoke at 16, should we change that along with alcohol and the recreation weed if applicable in one's state.

How about US Representative at age 18. President at 25.
posted by clavdivs at 9:09 PM on May 19


I've always felt that there should be one age at which someone legally becomes an adult. (Any age is going to be arbitrary.) Vote, drink, pay taxes, whatever. No bullshit "getting charged as an adult." You should either be a legal adult or not.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:47 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I've always felt that there should be one age at which someone legally becomes an adult. (Any age is going to be arbitrary.) Vote, drink, pay taxes, whatever. No bullshit "getting charged as an adult." You should either be a legal adult or not.

Hard seconded. Moving to america in my late 30s, the 16 vs 18 vs 21 this always seemed weird as hell to me - so you can vote, you can have sex, but you can't drink? But hey, you can be a kid and drive, that seems entirely reasonable.... (disclaimer: that does not sound entirely reasonable).
posted by jaymzjulian at 10:15 PM on May 19 [4 favorites]


Speaking of moving to America, another age-mediated thing is firearms ownership. Some time during the last couple of decades I tried to look up the minimum ages, which vary by state, and I think the lowest one I found was twelve for low-caliber weapons.
posted by XMLicious at 10:37 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


Yeah, if you can own and use a gun and a car, you should be able to vote.
posted by pracowity at 12:01 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


With regards to the ‘taxation without representation’ stance, US residents (green card holders) have to pay taxes but aren’t allowed to vote until they become citizens - if they even have the chance to become one. Even some undocumented immigrants can and do pay tax by using an ITIN number rather than an SSN, something I’m sure a lot of anti-immigrant persons are not aware of. Republicans aren’t exactly going to be jumping after this demographic either.
posted by atlantica at 12:22 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


It may be simple to have the same age limit for everything, but absent arguments for each case I don’t see that it’s self-evident.

One additional argument for a later voting age is that childhood is prolonged these days. A few generations back many people would have been full members of the workforce at 16 if not earlier. Now many don’t expect to start a proper career until 21 or later, with parents still actively supporting, advising, and intervening.

I do think the science about 16 year old brains deserves some weight. It’s generally assumed that younger voters would be more idealistic and progressive, but they may also be more prone to seduction by extreme and populist groups, where their energy might not be well spent. People are saying ‘you can vote if you’re demented’, but that’s an argument for taking the vote away from those with dementia, not for adding another possible mistake to the system.

In defence of old people, most of us care what the world is like after we die, even if we don’t have grandchildren. It can be argued that the fact I don’t have much personal future to worry about makes me more objective, and less inclined to vote selfishly.

However, arguments about voting competence have not usually been accepted historically. I think of the Adullamites, the British Liberals who opposed extension of the franchise because they thought uneducated voters would be easily swayed by self-serving demagogues, voting according to a misconceived and short-term notion of their own self-interest. They found themselves left behind by the momentum of change. The view that has usually won sees the vote instead as not a reward for judgement and mental competence, but a recognition of moral human equality and membership of a society that needs to be bound into some degree of consensus.

So do 16 year olds need to be more closely bound into our society? Maybe, but I don’t feel the case has yet been convincingly made.
posted by Segundus at 12:54 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


It is bizarre to me that you seem at the same time to be saying, "Sure! Older people can totally be trusted to work for the future good of the society everyone else will be living in once they're no longer members of it!" and also that 16-year-olds are the ones who might not have enough skin in the game to be too integral to the consensus of society.

Also... what is this science, again, exactly? I'd love to know how the "health encyclopedia" linked to above (probably syndicated content from a company that specializes in cranking it out, by my experience) quantified good judgment, or how any study determines that variances in behavior result from an organic difference rather than experience, for example. The way factoids about teens' brains end up in statements that appear to be about their minds or behavior makes me think it's a matter of making things sound science-y which aren't actually that empirical at all.
posted by XMLicious at 1:25 AM on May 20 [15 favorites]


One reason we have different ages for different things is that the reasons behind the choices are different. eg, the reason you can't rent a car until you're 25 is insurance costs for the car rental companies, in the 1970s the drinking age varied by state until the federal government used highway funding to push everyone into raising it to 21. Voting at 18 was a direct result of the Vietnam draft. I'd love to know the stories that led different states to pick different ages for sexual consent.

wg
posted by wendyg at 1:57 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


I'm a low-key supporter of lowering the voting age to 16 year olds, if you're going to employ them, tax their income and treat them as full adults in criminal trials, then they probably deserve the vote.

That said, it's politically impossible right now I feel, there's no mass movement in favour and an awful lot of people who benefit from the status quo.

On the flipside, while I understand the thinking behind maturation and limiting it all to 25, I really hope you're all just wildly spitballing.

It's already bad enough that the average age of politicians is more than twice mine, and wrt to climate change, low-income jobs and the like it's blatantly obvious that the interests of the elderly always come first.

If you seriously want to disenfranchise, what, 25 million young Americans, well, that definitely seems like a good and wise move that will only have positive consequences.

Especially because people 18-24 already feel like the govt has their best interests at heart, and there are no major political projects with decade timers which they might be upset about being delayed a voice in for up to 7 years. /s

Like, if you're not a fan of your democracy, this is a really good idea. I can think of few better ways to radicalise millions of young and angry people who are already struggling to believe that they're being considered in the path to the future.

So in conclusion, actually, yes, I support raising the voting age. Make clear to everyone what they already suspect about just how much you value us as people. It's a very accelerationist idea, but hey, if you're the ones suggesting it.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 3:04 AM on May 20 [11 favorites]


If we're going to start arguing that people younger than 25 aren't mature enough to vote, I'm going to say we should also be arguing that anyone over 65 is too potentially senile and/or has so little skin in the game that their right to vote needs to be revoked.
posted by tocts at 4:56 AM on May 20 [18 favorites]


It would take a constitutional amendment to raise the voting age past 18, so that derail won't go anywhere anyway.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:01 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


*reads another Trump-voter profile in a newspaper*
...
*watches the Flat-Earth documentary on netflix*
...
*scrolls past another anti-vax screed on the facebooks*
...
Yes, adult brains are very developed and make completely rational decisions.
posted by snwod at 5:01 AM on May 20 [16 favorites]


At a glance I read that 16 year olds want a vole. They *are* pretty cute.

(Give them the vote though, absolutely!)
posted by Stewriffic at 5:08 AM on May 20 [5 favorites]


Republicans add that the move is a Democratic bid to get more liberal voters.

"People are not legally considered adults in this country until they are 18 years old, and I believe they shouldn't be able to vote until then either," said Oregon Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger, Jr., of Grants Pass. "This is nothing more than an attempt to expand the voter rolls to sway elections."


Why do Republicans say this whenever any effort to expand the rolls of voters comes up? It almost looks like they would prefer to go back to the days when only white landowning men could vote. Of course, they also claim that this country is a REPUBLIC, not a DEMOCRACY, so im not sure why they worry about voting in the first place.

I have mixed feelings about this idea, but lean in favor of it. I also don't think it will make much of a difference in most elections. I am old enough to remember 1972, the first presidential election where 18 year olds could vote. Early on observers predicted that 18-20 year olds would heavily support McGovern (the 3 As candidate-acid, amnesty, and abortion!); perhaps enough to swing the election in his favor. I think we all know how that turned out.
posted by TedW at 6:13 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


One additional argument for a later voting age is that childhood is prolonged these days. A few generations back many people would have been full members of the workforce at 16 if not earlier. Now many don’t expect to start a proper career until 21 or later, with parents still actively supporting, advising, and intervening.

You should probably re-evaluate your assumptions about "many" there.
posted by srboisvert at 6:37 AM on May 20 [8 favorites]


People! We’ve already been warned about what happens if you lower the voting age! The documentary Wild in the Streets shows what happens when the voting age is lowered: a rockstar is elected president, teens run congress, and anyone over 30 is forced into mandatory retirement and spaced out on daily acid trips. Is this what we want?

It’s true, the brains of anyone under 25 are not yet fully developed. With 16 year olds voting, we may indeed see bizarre new trends in American politics, like TV stars getting elected President, and congressional leaders wasting time on investigations of conspiracy theories. Unlike now, we might start seeing campaigns that appeal not to the rational minds of voters, but to their most basic lizard-brain emotions and feelings of tribalism. Do we want to see the death of intelligent debate in Beltway politics? Do we want a country that’s vulnerable to the influence of the rich and powerful? By all means, let’s raise the voting age to 25, or even older; nothing short of disenfranchisement can preserve the purity of our political system.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:14 AM on May 20 [19 favorites]


Yesterday, I reviewed some literature related to juvenile law and the rights of minors that included a review of science related to brain development, and I thought it was telling that what I found didn't blink at the idea of minors being tried at adults, and mainly called for children to not be housed with adult offenders due to their age and the profound risks to their health, safety, and future development.

For example: Cruel and Unusual Punishment: Confining Juveniles with Adults After Graham and Miller (Andrea Wood, Emory Law Journal, 2012) (cw: abuse, sexual abuse, suicide), which in part relies on the brain science described in From Time Out to Hard Time: Young Children in the Criminal Justice System (Deitch, Barstow, Lukens, Reyna, University of Texas at Austin, 2009) (cw: abuse, sexual abuse, suicide). Similarly, in More States Need to Halt Prosecution of Youth as Adults (Maureen Washburn, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, 2017), the premise is that adult prosecution is still possible.

Back in law school, I tried to develop a defense to the prosecution of juveniles as adults, specifically because they lack the right to vote, essentially because it really seems like a wrong of a constitutional magnitude to process children through the adult criminal justice system without giving them an opportunity to participate in a government that is holding them accountable as adults. I got an A on the paper but never got hired as a public defender, so if it is going to be taken for granted that children are subject to prosecution as adults, then I think this becomes a very strong argument in favor of a right to vote.

The brain science arguments against voting aren't compelling to me for a variety of reasons, including the ones outlined in comments above. In addition, the idea that privileges that have health and safety concerns like driving, or firearm ownership, or alcohol, or tobacco, etc. should be a lodestar for the right to vote isn't convincing to me because these privileges are voted on all the time and aren't fundamental aspects of citizenship (except firearms post-DC v. Heller, and this right can still be restricted). Voting is a fundamental part of citizenship, so I think that the obligations to pay taxes and the risk of prosecution in the adult criminal justice system (even if juveniles are able to have their 8th Amendment rights protected and not be housed with adult offenders) warrant a right to vote.
posted by Little Dawn at 7:20 AM on May 20 [10 favorites]


Now many don’t expect to start a proper career until 21 or later

Agreeing with srboisvert, but also, I think the idea of a career is key here. Afaik it's true that people are starting "careers" later or eschewing them entirely, but they're working regardless.

If I'm lucky, I might be in "my career", if that's something I ever get, before I'm 30. But I've been working since I was 15.

As has been covered many times on the blue before, service jobs aren't just summer highschool work. They're real jobs that sustain people, from teens to retirees, and they're necessary jobs in today's world.

No-one is less a "full member of society" because they work at KFC for 5 years before finding employment more in line with their desires or training, instead of going into the mines at 14 and staying there till they get blacklung.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 7:25 AM on May 20 [11 favorites]


No-one is less a "full member of society" because they work at KFC for 5 years before finding employment more in line with their desires or training, instead of going into the mines at 14 and staying there till they get blacklung.

And, the 24th Amendment to the US Constitution eliminated the poll tax for federal elections and essentially tells us that economic ability does not help us determine whether someone should have a right to vote. See Also: The 14th Amendment.
posted by Little Dawn at 7:33 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


I think there is a better case for denying the elderly the right to vote (and hold office) than similar restrictions on the young. Enacting and voting for policies that won’t take full effect during your (expected) lifespan seems kind of unreasonable, like cutting taxes now in favor of infrastructure investment. Maybe 70 (75? 65?) should be a hard line on voting and serving in public office....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:38 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]


We've tried 14 year olds as adults - that doesn't say to me that they should have the vote, that says that we should stop doing that. Is that just that intractably a part of our society that we would more easily pile on the absurdity?

"16 yr olds are more likely to be living at home and have parents take them to vote"

Or it's possible that they would be legally required to attend school during prime voting hours or have parents that will impede their ability to vote in ways that are well within their legal power as parents but would be seen as suppressive if an outside party were to do so.
posted by Selena777 at 8:20 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


We've tried 14 year olds as adults

We've tried children younger than that (Equal Justice Initiative) as adults, and in my perfect world, we would not do that.

Or it's possible that they would be legally required to attend school during prime voting hours

This seems like an easier fix, because high schools could just become places to vote, similar to how it happened at my college.
posted by Little Dawn at 8:36 AM on May 20 [7 favorites]


...a rockstar is elected president, teens run congress, and anyone over 30 is forced into mandatory retirement and spaced out on daily acid trips. Is this what we want?


Doesn't sound all that bad, unless the rockstar is Ted Nugent. In that case it wouldn't be too different from our current situation.
posted by TedW at 8:50 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


I've certainly voted at high schools before. Always seemed wrong to me that students had to keep clear of the polling place area instead of being able to participate (both by voting and by helping with polling operations.)
posted by asperity at 8:51 AM on May 20 [5 favorites]


As the parent of a teenager, i know how much kids his age care and how much they wish they could vote. I support the idea.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 9:28 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]


Maybe give voters training wheels? For instance, have required civics/politics/voting classes starting in high school, including field trips to debates and town meetings, and encourage people to start voting in local elections when they're 16.

I wonder what the school board would look like if students were voting for school board members?
posted by pracowity at 9:35 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


Maybe 70 (75? 65?) should be a hard line on voting and serving in public office....

So much for Nelson Mandela, then.
posted by Segundus at 9:41 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Here’s a neat compromise: It actually is the case in Bosnia - Hercegovina, Serbia and Montenegro that EMPLOYED 16-18 year olds can vote. If one is NOT employed, voting age is 18 in Bosnia - Hercegovina. I’d have to look up the other countries. My daughter had her first steady work by age 16 and numerous part time gigs before from age 9. My son’s first paying job was at 12. Both went to harvest cherries at a friend’s orchard. They were paying attention to current affairs in a sensible way by age 16. I’d favor some version of how they handle this in Bosnia because working young people are paying taxes, driving, and often thinking more seriously than their parents. Also, people with dementia can vote. Maybe 16 isn’t fully mature, but sometimes 61 isn’t either.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:43 AM on May 20 [6 favorites]


Maybe give voters training wheels? For instance, have required civics/politics/voting classes starting in high school, including field trips to debates and town meetings, and encourage people to start voting in local elections when they're 16.

The problem with this is similar to the problem of a lot of "fixes" for making sure immigration is done "right" -- we hold people who don't yet have the privilege to an immensely higher standard than those that already have it (and who frequently did nothing to "earn" it). Look, if we're not going to make 50 year olds who can't name 2 of the 3 branches of government take classes to be allowed to vote, I don't think we need to be requiring extra hurdles for a 16 year old who is working, paying taxes just like everyone else, and is just as impacted by the results (if not more).
posted by tocts at 9:43 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]


I was gonna say, one, my school was always a polling place and in some grades I had a half day

And two, when I was sixteen, I was embedded in a community of peers who spent six hours a day together and talked constantly. And shared differences of opinions and discussed pros and cons. By the time I was 18, in the workplace and in college, my peer groups were smaller and much more loose, and sometimes less open to opinions.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 10:12 AM on May 20


Maybe give voters training wheels? For instance, have required civics/politics/voting classes starting in high school, including field trips to debates and town meetings, and encourage people to start voting in local elections when they're 16.

There used to be civics education. Guess who didn't like it.
posted by srboisvert at 10:14 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]


To what extent does support for extending the vote to 16-year-olds correlate with the perceived propensity of teenagers to vote #1 quidnunc kid?

(Personally, I support both propositions.)
posted by nickmark at 10:17 AM on May 20 [6 favorites]


Teenagers want to get involved - why do you think YA fiction is so fucking popular? I remember being irritated that I was left out of the entire national conversation when Obama was elected, when I was already doing sex-education volunteering work because of the issues related around comprehensive sex education. Let teenagers organize other teenagers - I'm so sick of adultism and how much adult policies impacted my entire adolescence, and I'm still irritated that I had to wait to turn 18 to go to college and get political in a way that was more supported. Currently speaking as a bitter 26 year old.
posted by yueliang at 10:26 AM on May 20 [10 favorites]


If you lower the voting age to 16, then it seems we set up a precedent with a whole host of potential ramifications. If 16-year-olds have the maturity and right to vote, why should they not always be tried as adults in the criminal justice system? Why should they be covered by juvenile rehabilitation and support programs? Why should parental obligations not end at 16, i.e. why should it not be legal to toss your kid out in the street and wash your hands of him at that age?

None of that feels right to me, because 16-year-olds are kids. 16-year-olds voting don’t feel right to me either, for the same reasons. Like others here, I would actually be in favor of raising the age of driving, military enlistment, etc.

Most of the (nonprofit) residential youth centers in Chicago take in people up to the age of 25. That doesn’t seem coincidental to me—the way that emerging research on brain maturity squares with activists’ firsthand experiences that lead them to formulate policies recognizing childhood to extend into your early-mid 20s.
posted by mylittlepoppet at 11:09 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


"let the children lead us" is one of those suggestions that comes up when your culture has run right the fuck out of ideas.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:13 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]


How does the song go? Oh, yeah...
The eastern world, it is explodin',
Violence flarin', bullets loadin',
You're old enough to kill but not for votin',
Well, that was about an actual war, but these days more children aged 15-18 are killed by guns than active-duty police officers or soldiers .

So FUCK YES lower the voting age, because right now they're old enough to die but not for votin'.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:13 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


Why should parental obligations not end at 16, i.e. why should it not be legal to toss your kid out in the street and wash your hands of him at that age?

Children already have some rights to be emancipated before reaching age 18. I also think the system we have that otherwise obligates parents to care for children until age 18 can be maintained while children are granted the right to vote at age 16. A right to vote seems like a natural part of the rights and obligations that minors are already have, and I don't see how a right to vote would trigger a slippery slope towards less rights for children.
posted by Little Dawn at 11:22 AM on May 20


"let the children lead us" is one of those suggestions that comes up when your culture has run right the fuck out of ideas.

The good news is we’ve gotten Spock’s brain back. The bad news is that we’ve got a lot of “X period on Earth” episodes until we get to the space hippies.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 11:49 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


my point about peer groups was that as a grown-up, communities usually form around either a workplace - which is not conducive to talking about politics; around shared interests, which also usually aren't politics; or around kids activities, which usually doesn't involve politics any higher than the PTA. People move around more these days, and form peer groups that are looser, less geographically contiguous - and therefore don't line up with political boundaries.

Age 16-18 is the last chance to (use state power to) teach people that they are part of a citizenry, and teach them what the government is and what their role in it could be. It's also the prime time to form habits for adulthood. So yeah, do it.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 1:07 PM on May 20


what i am tiptoeing around is that high school kids are effectively institutionalized and ripe for indoctrination.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 1:12 PM on May 20


There has got to be a cutoff. 18 is as good as any. Basic education is completed and the person is legally emancipated. Parents should not be able to order a child to vote as the parent wants.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:08 PM on May 20 [2 favorites]


A short comment on civics classes - I'm assured that all the relevant things for our government system are taught in schools. I'm constantly assured of this, because my parents are both teachers, and when I complain that these things should be taught in schools, they tell me they are.

An awful people seem to nonetheless have no idea how preferential voting works at all, how tax brackets work, all kinds of basic things that, once again, I am assured, they are being taught. So maybe more is being taught than you realise, but even if it's not yet, just putting the content in the curriculum is not nearly enough. You need people to actually care enough to remember, or they're just going to forget it anyway as soon as the test is done.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 5:36 PM on May 20 [3 favorites]


Why should parental obligations not end at 16, i.e. why should it not be legal to toss your kid out in the street and wash your hands of him at that age?

Kid's whose parent(s) are looking for a technicality to throw them out on the street early are in all likelihood already doing such a shitty job of parenting those kids may be better off or are already on the street by their own choice.
posted by srboisvert at 6:26 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


We have a huge problem with civic participation and voting in the U.S. Maybe if kids got to vote earlier they would take to it. That's enough reason to do this.
posted by xammerboy at 9:07 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


From a thread by adrienneleigh:
Thirteen states, by the way, have NO MINIMUM STATUTORY AGE at which children may be tried as adults and sent to grown-up prison.

Other facts about children being tried as adults: - Within the last FIVE YEARS, children as young as ten have been tried as adults in the US. - About 2/3 of children tried as adults are Black; about 2/3 of the remainder are Hispanic.

SEVENTEEN states, by the way, also have no minimum age for children to marry (with parental or judicial consent). Nearly all minors who marry are girls; nearly all are married to adults; and in many states they are unable to legally divorce or enter abuse shelters.

So basically, according to Americans, children have enough "adult"-ness to: a) marry adults b) spend their entire lives in adult prisons but not enough "adult"-ness to: a) vote b) make their own medical decisions

Make no mistake, most of the aforementioned girls getting married to adult men are being sold by their parents, in one way or another. (The consideration may not be financial; it may be social or religious. But "parental consent" does NOT mean the child consented.)

Just contemplate for a moment how profoundly vile it is to set up a legal regime where a 10-year-old girl can legally marry a 40-year-old man, but it will be EIGHT YEARS before she can legally DIVORCE him.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:40 AM on May 25 [3 favorites]




I was going to mention it, but it seemed somewhat tangential - 16 is beneath many states' current age of consent laws, and there is an anti-child marriage movement underway to establish the marriageable age at 18. The suggestion to lower the voting age appears to be out of step with that.
posted by Selena777 at 5:59 PM on May 27


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