Busting the Myths about Lowering the Voting Age

Like any new, bold idea, lowering the voting age faces an array of counterarguments. They deserve adequate consideration, but when studied closely these counterarguments are revealed for what they truly are, just myths. Here are some of the most common myths about lowering the voting age.

Myth #1: 16-year-olds Are Not Mature Enough to Vote

This gut reaction is misguided. Research shows that 16-year-olds have the same level of civic knowledge as 21-year-olds. Further and voting depends on “cold cognition,” a thought out decision-making process in which 16-year-olds perform just as well as adults. We need to work to get past this initial gut reaction, especially since an initial, negative response usually does not even begin to consider how lowering the voting age can improve our democracy as a whole.

Myth #2: Sixteen-year-olds Aren’t Really Adults

Sixteen-year-olds play an important role in our society, and the age has special significance in our culture. Sixteen-year-olds can drive in most states, work without any restriction on hours, pay taxes, and in some cases be tried for crimes as adults. The legal definition linking adulthood to the age of 18 should not affect voter eligibility.

Myth #3: Lowering the Voting Age Is A Progressive Power Grab to Create More Liberals

This effort transcends party lines. The goal is to invigorate our democracy by fostering active and engaged citizens. A more lively political discourse— in classrooms and in the broader public sphere—can stimulate ideas from across the political spectrum. The effort to lower the voting age is based on increasing participation in democracy across the political spectrum.

Myth #4: Sixteen- and 17-Year-Olds Will Just Copy Their Parents’ Vote

Evidence suggests this is untrue. Date from the 2014 Scottish independence referendum shows that over 40 percent of young people had different voting intentions than a parent interviewed. This claim needs to be studied more in the United States, but given the data on youth political preferences, it seems that young people can demonstrate and express political beliefs independent from those of their parents.