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Do Now #37: Should the Voting Age be Younger than 18?

| September 7, 2012 | 14 Comments
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Flickr/Liz the Librarian


To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDEdspace and end it with #KQEDDoNow

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.


Do Now

Should the legal voting age in America be lowered to under 18 years of age? How low should it go? What are some arguments for or against this, and how might it impact the outcome of political elections in our country?

Introduction

American youth under 18 years old live under the same laws as adults. They pay sales taxes (every time they buy something). And some can even work jobs and get drivers licenses.

But … they can’t vote.

And that’s just not fair, say a growing number of student rights groups across the country that are lobbying to have the voting age lowered to at least 16.

“Young people participate in this society in many other ways,” Alex Korokney-Palicz, president of the National Youth Rights Association told Fox News. “They pay taxes, they follow our laws, they can be charged as adults for crimes. They have so much reason to vote, and It’s simply unjust to deny them.”

Being able to vote, he added, would add real meaning and relevance to high school social studies and civics classes, which most students take before they turn 18.

But, say opponents, too many youth simply lack the necessary level of maturity and complexity to make informed decisions at the voting booth.

“I think it’s a dumb idea,” said Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate. “The voting age was set at 18 because that’s the age at which people could be drafted and die for their country. They (youth under 18) don’t have enough life experience or history and don’t know the issues in enough detail.”

Throughout the course of American history, the right to vote has very gradually grown more inclusive. And it’s almost always resulted from hard-fought political battles waged by disenfranchised populations demanding representation in the political process. Remember that when the Constitution was first drafted in 1789, the right to vote was reserved for white male property owners 21 and up.

By the mid-Nineteenth Century, property requirements were dropped. Over the next two decades, the right to vote was granted to black men and shortly thereafter to all naturalized male citizens over 21. It was more than 50 years later – in 1920 – that women were granted universal suffrage after the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

But it wasn’t until 1971 that the voting age in America was finally lowered from 21 to 18. The 26th Amendment, which prohibited states from setting the voting age any higher than 18, was ratified largely as a result of heated student activism in opposition to the Vietnam War, and the compelling notion that if 18-year-olds were old enough to be drafted, it was only fair that they be considered old enough to vote too.

Section one of the amendment states: “The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.”

So, will voting rights be extended to teens younger than 18? It remains to be seen, but if history is any guide, the possibility may certainly be in reach if enough young people demand it.

Resource

RNN segment NYRA-Nanuet Campaigns to Lower the Voting Age on RNN – January 9, 2009
RNN produced a segment on NYRA-Nanuet: Teen Suffrage Organization’s quest to lower the voting age. This aired on January 9, 2009. The chapter has since changed their campaign to push for a voting age of 16 instead of 15 like the story indicates.


Do Now

Should the legal voting age in America be lowered to under 18 years of age? How low should it go? What are some arguments for or against this, and how might it impact the outcome of political elections in our country?


To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDedspace and end it with #KQEDDoNow

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

We encourage students to tweet their personal opinions as well as support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people’s ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets like memes or more extensive blog posts to represent their ideas. Of course, do as you can…and any contribution is most welcomed.


More Resources

Fox News segment NYRA Advocates Lowering the Voting Age – October 23, 2004
National Youth Rights Association’s Executive Director, Alex Koroknay-Palicz, appears on Fox News Sunday to debate whether the voting age should be lowered.

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Category: Do Now

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About the Author ()

Matthew Green runs KQED’s News Education Project, a new online resource for educators and the general public to help explain the news. The project lives at kqed.org/lowdown.
  • http://minorsvote.com Baxter Hankin

    Even though minors can’t vote, they can still voice their political opinion at minorsvote.com

  • http://minorsvote.com Baxter Hankin

    Even though minors can’t vote, they can still voice their political opinion at minorsvote.com

  • http://www.grumpyoldman.net Lawrence ward

    As long as American adults refuse to be adults and parent thier families it makes sense. Hell, the kids aren’t being taught responsibility in their everyday lives so they won’t be any more prepared to vote when they become 21 then they are now. For those of you who are mature stop viewing society in your own mirror.

  • http://www.grumpyoldman.net Lawrence ward

    As long as American adults refuse to be adults and parent thier families it makes sense. Hell, the kids aren’t being taught responsibility in their everyday lives so they won’t be any more prepared to vote when they become 21 then they are now. For those of you who are mature stop viewing society in your own mirror.

  • http://edwinforyouthrights.wordpress.com Edwin Bonilla

    Although I don’t live in the San Francisco metropolitan area, I want to comment by saying that the voting age should be lowered to 16 in municipal elections. This would mean that girls and boys who are 16-17 should vote in city, county, parish, borough, town and township elections. The best strategy to give this right to the 16-17 age range is through activism on the city, town or county level. They should be allowed to vote on the municipal level because voting will become a habit. That is part of the word ‘citizenship’.

  • http://edwinforyouthrights.wordpress.com Edwin Bonilla

    Although I don’t live in the San Francisco metropolitan area, I want to comment by saying that the voting age should be lowered to 16 in municipal elections. This would mean that girls and boys who are 16-17 should vote in city, county, parish, borough, town and township elections. The best strategy to give this right to the 16-17 age range is through activism on the city, town or county level. They should be allowed to vote on the municipal level because voting will become a habit. That is part of the word ‘citizenship’.

  • Sharon Dunlevy

    I think it is funny that the first “adult” quoted called it a “dumb idea.” my daughter would be in big trouble for using that word. Secondly, the argument that teens are less informed is completely wrong. They are in school and are exposed to all manner of news and government in class. It is the adults that are usually ignorant because they choose not to become informed. Maybe we all should have to take a test before we vote. :-)

  • Sharon Dunlevy

    I think it is funny that the first “adult” quoted called it a “dumb idea.” my daughter would be in big trouble for using that word. Secondly, the argument that teens are less informed is completely wrong. They are in school and are exposed to all manner of news and government in class. It is the adults that are usually ignorant because they choose not to become informed. Maybe we all should have to take a test before we vote. :-)

  • Talesa

    @kqededspace I think it would be a great idea to let minors under the age of 18 vote because alot of the arguments he had did make sence and does make a point. Even at 18 there is not alot of maturity in most people some 16 year olds think way past a 18 year olds leveal and is probably more educated than the average 18 year old that goes and votes. the voting age should not be no lower then 16 though, and giving minors the right to vote with let history classes in school go more into presidental election. Also teach students more about it #kqeddonow

  • Talesa

    @kqededspace I think it would be a great idea to let minors under the age of 18 vote because alot of the arguments he had did make sence and does make a point. Even at 18 there is not alot of maturity in most people some 16 year olds think way past a 18 year olds leveal and is probably more educated than the average 18 year old that goes and votes. the voting age should not be no lower then 16 though, and giving minors the right to vote with let history classes in school go more into presidental election. Also teach students more about it #kqeddonow

  • Talesa

    @kqededspace I think it would be a great idea to let minors under the age of 18 vote because alot of the arguments he had did make sence and does make a point. Even at 18 there is not alot of maturity in most people some 16 year olds think way past a 18 year olds leveal and is probably more educated than the average 18 year old that goes and votes. the voting age should not be no lower then 16 though, and giving minors the right to vote with let history classes in school go more into presidental election. Also teach students more about it #kqeddonow #MsSully3

  • Talesa

    @kqededspace I think it would be a great idea to let minors under the age of 18 vote because alot of the arguments he had did make sence and does make a point. Even at 18 there is not alot of maturity in most people some 16 year olds think way past a 18 year olds leveal and is probably more educated than the average 18 year old that goes and votes. the voting age should not be no lower then 16 though, and giving minors the right to vote with let history classes in school go more into presidental election. Also teach students more about it #kqeddonow #MsSully3

  • Hannah

    I am a teen and I think this isn’t a good idea at all. I know there are many teens who would be capable of making an informed decision, but there are also many who could easily be convinced to choose someone they might not have originally. Also, purposely or not, I feel like a student’s vote will likely be a reflection of their parents’, rather than their own decision.

  • Hannah

    I am a teen and I think this isn’t a good idea at all. I know there are many teens who would be capable of making an informed decision, but there are also many who could easily be convinced to choose someone they might not have originally. Also, purposely or not, I feel like a student’s vote will likely be a reflection of their parents’, rather than their own decision.