Lowering the Voting Age sign now

Why the Voting Age Should be Lowered to 16


Youth NEED the Right to Vote

80\% of 16 and 17 year-olds work at some point before graduation.

61\% of teenagers work during the school year.

Youth pay taxes but have no say about how much or how that tax money is spent.

Youth will be deeply affected by decisions about social security, but cannot vote to insure that the money they contribute today will be there for them when they retire.

Youth have strongly held views about the environment, but have no voice in determining the leaders who must protect it.

Youth are most directly impacted by education policy. As students, they have the best perspective to determine what reforms are needed but have no input in deciding what changes are made.

Youth Have the Maturity Needed to Vote

Youth become physically mature at an earlier age. For example, the average age of puberty has declined from 16 in the mid 19th-century, to 15 in 1900 to about 12 today.

Todays youth are smarter than their parents generation. Studies conducted by Professor James Flynn have shown that IQ scores grew by 17 points during the period 1947 through 2001, with the increase accelerating to 0.36 points per year in the 1990s. In other words, a child scoring in the top 25\% in an IQ test today, would score in the top 3\% of an IQ test in 1932.

Experts have suggested an explanation to this trend: the explosion of new media, television and particularly the internet, which challenge youths cognitive senses and problem solving abilities.

Youth are treated like adults in many respects. 16 year-olds are allowed to drive in 48 states.

Youth 16 (or even younger) are tried as adults for serious crimes in many states. As a result, the number of juveniles in adult prisons grew by 47\% during a mere five year period (1990-1995).7 If youth can be punished like adults, they should also be given the rights of adults.

Youth Have the Political Knowledge to Vote Intelligently

Youth are enrolled in school, taking history, government, law and/or economics.

When students are taught a full course curriculum, they come to know MORE about politics and government than adults.


Example: Students who took the comprehensive We the People (WTP) constitutional law program scored BETTER than adults 18-80 in knowledge of government and politics. See Table below.
Question WTP Students Answering Correctly Adults (18-80) Answering Correctly
Could name the vice-president 96\% 74\%
Understood the meaning of Judicial Review 96\% 66\%
Knew Two-Thirds Veto Override Requirement 87\% 34\%
Knew which political party controlled the House of Representatives 68\% 68\%
Could explain political party ideology 87\% 57\%

High school students are more than qualified enough to vote: the federal Voting Rights Acts of 1965 (42 U.S.C. 1971(c)) states that:

any person who has not been adjudged an incompetent and who has completed the sixth grade in a public school in, or a private school accredited by, any State or territory, the District of Columbia, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico where instruction is carried on predominantly in the English language, possesses sufficient literacy, comprehension, and intelligence to vote in any election.

Thus, if a 6th grade education is adequate for voting purposes, certainly the 10th grade education most 16 year-olds possess would be more than adequate.

Unknowledgeable Adults Are Not Kept from Voting

Even ignoring the issue of youth knowledge of politics, adults who are ignorant about political issues are not kept from voting. For example, polls have shown that about 70\% of adults cant name their own states senators.8 Another poll found that three-quarters of Americans could not name their House member.

A third showed almost two-thirds of adults could not name any United States Supreme Court justices.

Adults are even more confused on the issues themselves. In the Washington Post poll, adults mistakenly thought foreign aid made up 26\% of the budget (it made up only 2\%).11 If adults lack even basic knowledge of who represents them and how the government works, how can youth be classified as not knowledgeable enough to vote?

Youth Want the Right to Vote and Will Turnout

73\% of 12-17 year olds in a Washington Post survey were very interested or fairly interested in politics. 95\% of these young people viewed voting in a presidential election as very important or fairly important

Teens will turnout and vote:
Germany- Several states lowered the voting age to 16 for local elections, with higher turnout for voters under 18 than for 18-24 year-olds.
City of Hanover (1996) 16-17 year-olds (56.5\% turnout), 18-24 year-olds (49.1\% turnout).

City of Braunscheig (1996), 16-17 year-olds (50.4\% turnout), 18-24 year-olds (44.5\% turnout).

State of Saxony-Anhelt (1999) (all major cities), 16-17 year-olds (33\% turnout), 18-21 year-olds (32\% turnout), 21-25 year-olds (24\% turnout).

Austria- Several Austrian provinces also lowered their voting age to 16. 16-17 year-olds have turned out well. For example, in the City of Graz, January 2003- 16-17 year-olds turned out at a higher rate (58\%) than the total voter turnout (57\%).

Baltimore, 2003- an actual election where some 16 and 17 year-olds were able to vote in the mayoral primary because they would be 18 by the time of the general election (more than one year later). Turnout: 35\% of registered 16 and 17 year-olds turned out versus 36\% of the general population.


A Voting Age Under 18 is Constitutional

The 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution states that:
The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

There is agreement among distinguished constitutional law professors such as Vikram Amar (University of California-Hastings)24 and Katherine Hunt Federle (Ohio State University)25 that the 26th Amendment only prohibits a jurisdiction from setting a voting age above 18, it does not prohibit a voting age under 18.

Lower the voting age now because the future need a voice today.

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