An amendment has been proposed by House Democrats to lower the voting age to sixteen. The amendment was introduced by Representative Pressley as an amendment to the constitution, which currently states that the legal voting age is eighteen. This statement is found in the 26th Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment was part of the HR 1 voting rights package. The vote was unsuccessful and killed at 125-302 with the majority of Democrats voting in favor (125-93). 

Should Sixteen-Year-Olds Vote

Pressley has been outspoken in her view on lowering the voting age. She claims, “A sixteen-year-old in 2021 possesses a wisdom and a maturity that comes from 2021 challenges, 2021 hardships, and 2021 threats”. She goes on to call sixteen and seventeen-year-olds “courageous” for facing their “challenges”. She also claimed in February that she was “shocked” it was a polarizing issue.  She herself is a member of “the Squad”- a group of six House members known for their progressive views. She made this comment during a Facebook Live conversation with Representative Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Ibram X. Kendi. Kendi claimed that lowering the voting age is an example of anti-racist policy.

The amendment to lower the voting age was first attached to HR 1 in 2019, and the amendment failed after getting just 126 votes in the House. Some states, including Hawaii, have also considered lowering the voting age to sixteen.

Poor Political Knowledge

The problem is that a voting age of sixteen is simply too young. Sixteen-year-olds and teenagers in general do not have a great knowledge of politics. According to Southern Poverty Law Center, only 8% of high school seniors can identify slavery as the cause of the Civil War. If they do not know the correct cause of the Civil War, how are they supposed to understand racism and its implications in our society? Only one in four Oklahoma high school students could name the first president of the United States in a survey conducted by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. A 2012 National Election Studies report found the youngest age group to have the lowest political knowledge. Younger voters have also witnessed fewer election cycles, been exposed to less political news content, and have less experience based around politics.

Major Life Changes

No one can argue that a younger person has more life experience than an older person, but most key changes occur around eighteen. It is at the age of eighteen when someone is generally considered an adult. At eighteen, high school students generally graduate. Graduation generally serves as the gateway to a career, college, or military service. Fewer sixteen and seventeen-year-olds hold down jobs than eighteen and nineteen-year-olds., according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Eighteen-year-olds can get married and buy houses. These changes and experiences greatly influence the perspective of a young person.

Peer Influence

High school students are much more susceptible to peer influence than adults. High school students do not make many major decisions. They go to school as they are told and usually live under a roof with their parents. They are a bit naïve from lack of life experience, making them quick to fall for promises and generally not think things through.

“Courageous” Sixteen and Seventeen-Year-Olds

Going back to Pressley’s comments on the challenges sixteen and seventeen-year-olds face in our current climate, it is worth noting that education has negatively been impacted by the coronavirus. Sure, it has been challenging for sixteen and seventeen-year-olds, but it has been challenging for everyone. Whether someone has been through “challenges” or not should not decide the right to vote. School lockdowns starting in spring 2020 reduced instructional and learning time and placed students at a risk of becoming disengaged. An educated populous is key to having a successful democracy. Current students have had a lower-quality education than their older peers.

Ploy for Democrats to Receive More Votes

I see the whole argument for a lower voting age as a ploy for Democrats to receive more votes. It does not, to me, sound like a good idea. It is worth noting that younger generations have the highest percentage of Democrats. According to a graph published by Gallup, the highest percentage of Democrats by age is nineteen, with the graph starting at nineteen. It is more or less an amendment to turn the voting pool in their favor.

Conclusion

House Democrats have proposed a bill that has not been passed and would radically change our democratic process. Within it is the amendment to drop the voting age to sixteen. Sixteen-year-olds have less political knowledge, less experience, more peer influence, and weaker education than adults. 

Written by: Miranda Smith