How young is too young to vote?
Fox News reports that San Fransisco, California, may soon become the first major United States city to allow sixteen and seventeen-year-olds to vote.
What’s going on?
When the people of San Francisco vote this November they will find on their ballots a proposition that, more or less, will ask them whether the minimum required voting age ought to be lowered to sixteen years.
If the proposition is passed, then sixteen and seventeen-year-olds will be allowed to vote in future elections. But, only in local elections.
The minimum required voting age for federal elections is eighteen, a figure mentioned in the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the Constitution.
At the 2016 elections, San Francisco made the same attempt at lowering the voting age. The measure failed to pass, but not by much.
The argument for
One group that is pushing this reduction in the minimum required voting age is Vote16SF. On the group’s website, they put forth four reasons why they believe sixteen-year-olds ought to be allowed to vote.
Their number one reason is that “Lowering the voting age can lead to a long-term increase in voter turnout, bringing more citizens in touch with their government and pushing the government to better serve its people.” In other words, the group wants to make voting a habit, and they believe this habit is more successfully instilled at sixteen than eighteen years of age.
The group’s other three reasons are that “sixteen- and 17-year olds are ready to vote,” that “sixteen- and 17-year-olds have a stake in the game, and elected officials must treat them as equal constituents,” and “lowering the voting age to 16 will strengthen civics education.”
The argument against
The main argument against lower the minimum required voting age is that young people lack the mental maturity to make a reasoned decision at the polls. Fox, for its report, quotes Nate Hochman, a senior from Colorado College.
“Sixteen-year-olds — they’re sophomores, juniors in high school like they’re deeply impressionable,” said Hochman. “They’re largely interested in learning what, you know, their friends are doing and appearing to be cool. And they’re not capable of making completely rational decisions about voting.”
On this issue, we would agree with Hochman, although we’d probably put it a little differently. Adherents believe that the measure will easily pass this time around. We’ll see.