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Should teenagers be able to vote?

What are the opinions of teens on politics? What age should our youth have a voice in politics? Students from Kent Innovation High School discuss the issue.
Comic that depicts a 16 year old's first year of voting.

Comic that depicts a 16 year old's first year of voting. /Riley Hamady

Teens across the nation are exploring political activism and wondering how to impact politics in their own way. This begs the question, should the voting age be shifted to 16, allowing younger opinions into the realm of politics? Mass shootings, school violence, and mental health are leading reasons why teens are increasingly involved in politics. Legalizing their right to vote would allow them new opportunities to be heard and to make a difference.

This isn’t the first time teens have desired change in the voting age. According to an article in People’s World, “Today in history: Voting age lowered to 18”, the voting age was shifted from 21 to 18 back in 1970.  

According to National School Walkout, students across the country are protesting congressional, state, and local failures. They are working to prevent gun violence by doing school walkouts and protests. They feel as if America's leaders aren't doing anything to prevent the dangers teens are put through. With doing this they are working to make their voices heard.

Michigan government program director Theresa Williams says, “Usually the law change takes place by a legislator…but it can also occur when a group of people pull together to create a petition drive and receive the proper amount of signatures to place it on the ballot as a proposal.” We also asked her opinion on lowering the voting age to 16. “I’m open to the idea of having this age group vote but, in general, the younger voters do not vote to the degree that older voters do in elections.”

Williams brings up a good point. According to "Early Signs of a Youth Wave" on The Atlantic, voters 18 to 29 only made up 13 percent of the overall voter turnout in this year’s midterms. “Based on statistical information…we find that the younger the voter, the less they come out to vote on Election Day. I don’t think the very young voters would have a great impact on the outcome of elections."

Some people dislike the idea of lowering the voting age.  According to 16-year-old Kent Career Tech Center student Asher Debaar,  “I don't think it's a good idea; [they] don't have an understanding of the world yet.” He thinks teens are too young and wouldn't have a positive effect on the elections.

Ann Kober, an Adult educator from Kent County, also agrees that lowering the voting age may be problematic. At age 60 she believes, “No, 16-year olds shouldn't vote! They haven't been out in the working world enough at that age to understand the impact of their decisions. It's a proven fact that teenagers brains aren't fully developed until they are older! Some teenagers are mature enough to vote, but the majority aren't.”

Who should vote? What ages should be allowed to impact our nation’s laws? The world looks to its young people to create lasting changes; will it give votes to youth voices, too?


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