In a number of localities around the country, the push to lower the voting age for city and state elections is gaining momentum, though it still faces considerable challenges before it becomes law in most places.
The biggest example of this phenomenon so far is Boston, Massachusetts, where the City Council on Wednesday approved a petition to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in municipal elections.
The measure still has to go to the state legislature, which isn’t sure to approve it. Several other Massachusetts municipalities have approved similar rule changes, but the state House did not approve them.
Developing voting habits
The argument in favor of lowering the voting age is that it will help develop the habit of voting in people at a younger age, which will then stick when they get older.
“We don’t apply a maturity index to the right to vote for any other age,” petition sponsor City Councilor Kenzie Bok told the Boston Globe. “Having the opportunity to vote is what gives our 16- and 17-year-olds a chance to engage meaningfully.”
Another argument for allowing the teens to vote is that they have other adult responsibilities, like holding a job and paying taxes.
“Young people are working, paying taxes,” petition cosponsor and City Councilor Julia Mejia said. “When it comes to making a decision as to who’s going to represent them, that has been denied to them.”
Arguments against the measure
But there are also powerful arguments against lowering the voting age. Teens’ brains are far from developed, and they have less life experience, making it easy for politicians (or teachers, or parents) to sway them in ways that older adults can often see through and resist.
In addition, allowing younger teens to vote gives Democrats more of an advantage, since young people tend to be Democrats and liberals because of their lack of life experience.
Not to mention, these teens are minors and can’t even enter into contracts or do other adult tasks without an adult’s permission. Under-18s can’t legally smoke, take drugs where they are legal, get married, buy alcohol, or in many places, consent to sex.
Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation told Just the News:
This is a foolish, cynical move by Boston and other jurisdictions. Under the law, 16- and 17-year-olds are minors. They can’t sign contracts or leases, buy alcohol, join the military, serve on a jury, or engage in a host of other activities that only legal adults are qualified to engage in because we as a society have judged that they have not yet developed the experience and judgment to make such decisions. They aren’t even treated as adults when they commit crimes, except under exceptional circumstances, for the very same reason.
But two counties in California and five in Maryland have already lowered the voting age.
A similar bill is being introduced by a Democrat lawmaker to the Virginia general assembly, but it will probably not make it past the Republican majority there.
With younger voters voting in increasing numbers, though, it will be more difficult to get Republicans elected going forward if people as young as 16 are allowed to vote.