4 Reasons to Lower the U.S. Voting Age to 16
Reason #1: We Need to Make Voting a Habit
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. Research shows that voting is habitual. A person who votes in the first election they are eligible for is likely to continue voting consistently, while someone who doesn’t will take several years to pick up the habit. It is clear that age 16 is a better time to establish a new habit than age 18, and data from places that have lowered the voting age shows that 16-year-olds do indeed vote at higher rates than older first-time voters.
Reason #2: Sixteen- and 17-year olds are ready to vote
Research shows that 16- and 17-year-olds have the necessary civic knowledge, skills, and cognitive ability to vote responsibly. A study comparing the qualities associated with voting—such as civic knowledge, political skills, and political interest—among citizens 18 and older and citizens below 18 found no significant differences between 16 year olds and those above age 18. Furthermore, deciding how to vote relies on “cold cognition,” the decision making process in which a person deliberates alone and unhurried, and draws on logical reasoning abilities. Research shows that cold cognition matures by 16, and does not improve as one gets older.
Reason #3: SIXTEEN- AND 17-YEAR-OLDS HAVE A STAKE IN THE GAME, AND ELECTED OFFICIALS MUST TREAT THEM AS EQUAL CONSTITUENTS
Youth are affected by local political issues as much as anyone. They also work without limits on hours and pay taxes on their income, can drive in most states, and in some cases, are tried in adult courts. Sixteen- and 17-year-olds deserve the right to vote on issues that affect them on the local level. Further, voting is the most reliable way for ordinary citizens to influence the government. Lowering the voting age would force local politicians to listen to sixteen- and 17-year-olds and address their concerns.
Reason #4: lowering the voting age to 16 will strengthen civics education
Strong civics education and a lower voting age would mutually reinforce each other to increase civic engagement. A lower voting age would make civics education more effective as providing students a way to directly apply what they’re learning in the classroom in their communities would add a crucial level of relevance to civics courses. It would also encourage more schools to implement higher quality civics education programs given its immediate implications on students lives.