Marylanders went to the polls yesterday for primary elections. For some Mt. Hebron students, it was their first time participating in the political process.
Due to the ongoing 2016 president election, many people are beginning to debate the required minimum voting age in America. Perhaps this attention stems from Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders’s support base, which seems to be composed of mainly younger citizens, a lot of whom are under the age of 18.
Why is this?
Maybe it is because a portion of Sanders’s platform focuses on lessening college students’ financial burdens. And, as one article from NPR explained, “Young people — and not just college graduates — are doing worse than their parents did at their age. Data suggest they earn less, have more student loan debt and aren’t able to buy a house as soon.”
Regardless of why Sanders’s supporters tend be younger, it has spurred a discussion over the voting age that has been occurring for almost 80 years. As of now, 85 percent of countries have a voting age of 18. And though many countries seem to have reached the consensus that 18 is the most reasonable age, many groups call for a lower one. There are even proposals in California, Florida and Alaska that seek to lower the age to 16. Though all of these propositions were denied, there are still attempts being made to change the voting age across the nation.
While many proposals seek to decrease the voting age, others have been working towards an older one. Mt. Hebron students expressed a wide array of opinions conveying both sides of the argument.
“I believe the current voting age is good where it is,” said sophomore Cooper Watts. “At 18, you can go off to the army and fight for your country. If you can do that, you should at least be able to have a say in who the leader of the nation you are protecting is.”
Sophomore Danielle Renea disagreed. “I think it would be good to lower [the voting age] because society is constantly changing and younger people have different opinions than older people, so it would be a good compromise.”
Sophomore Grace Palmateer agreed. “A lot of young people have strong opinions and are educated enough to vote.”
The National Youth Rights Association (NYRA) actually works towards a lower voting age, explaining that it would increase voter turnout and reinvigorate the American government by combining both traditional and modern ideas. The NYRA also explains that it would increase young adults’ interest and participation in politics.
On the other hand, many argue that children under the age of 18 lack the maturity and knowledge to vote. Mt. Hebron 2013 graduate, Alex McKenzie, defended this assertion.
“If it was raised to 21, people would be more experienced and aware of what’s going on around the world,” McKenzie said. “Being 21 myself, I have noticed how much I have matured and grown since I left high school.”
Another supporter of a higher voting age, Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law, said, “To be a voter, one must be able to participate in adult political discussions. It’s necessary to be able to listen to opposing arguments and even to change your mind in response to new evidence.”
Reynolds believes that many college and high school students do not meet this standard.
The voting age has been a controversial subject for many years and will most likely continue to be for years to come.