Guest Author - Melissa Weise
America is all about movement. The Civil Rights movement, the movement to protect the environment by “going green”, the movement of the pioneers exploring the West. Because we are a democratic nation governed by the voting people, “movements” usually are the most powerful when supported by the people.
And now there is a new and rather controversial movement to change the national voting minimum from age eighteen to sixteen. Many states are considering this option as teenagers lobby for it at their capitols. Many teens are actually rather passionate about it. And not just the ones that enjoy running for class officers, either. This movement is being supported by teenagers from across the high school cliques. (Read some of the articles linked below for more information or google it yourself.)
Find that surprising? You aren’t the only one. To many people (kids and adults alike), the governmental process is a boring one. You hear it all the time in what people say: “All politicians are crooked.” “The government is too big.” “My vote doesn’t matter.” “I don’t understand what they are talking about.” And it also shows up when you look at how many people actually vote. Out of a list of 36 countries that use voting to govern their countries, America ranks third from the bottom in voter turn out. While countries like Austria, Italy, France, Canada, the UK, Japan, Germany (and many more) have over 75% of people eligible to vote actually vote, the United States has 54% during a presidential election and 40% at other times. That’s pretty sad considering that so many people died in wars for our right to govern our own country. And now that we can, we don’t even show up.
But that being said, many people still realize the power of voting. After all, it is just about our only means of getting our leaders into office. And the country can’t run itself without leaders. We need Legislators: Congressmen and Senators to keep our states running and we need a President to keep the whole country running smoothly and to talk with the rest of the world. Without Legislators, there would be no money to take care of all the things that our states take care of that we don’t even think about: running schools, maintaining roads, plowing snow, providing healthcare for the poor, keeping our parks up and many other things. They also set laws.
And this all impacts teenagers in a very direct way, as the teens supporting the voting movement have discovered. For instance, recent legislation that has impacted many teenagers include whether or not to ban music, movies and video games with inappropriate content, whether or not schools should implement dress codes, at what age teenagers can work and what those working conditions should be. These are all things that are decided by voting and since they are teen issues, shouldn’t teens be able to vote on them? But they can’t. Unless they are eighteen anyway. In fact, laws and legislators work on determining teen’s very rights every day. Until American citizens are eighteen, the basic rights afforded by the Constitution (such as the famous freedom of speech and pursuits of happiness rights) don’t exactly apply. And until people are eighteen they can’t help to change this in any way.
So is it even realistic to think that teens could get the voting age lowered to sixteen? After all, isn’t eighteen how it is always been? Well, no in fact. Who can vote changes all the time. When the United States was first started, only Caucasian male land-owners could vote. Then men who didn’t own land wanted to vote and so they lobbied and got it changed. Then women were unhappy that they couldn’t vote and so they lobbied and eventually got it changed. Then, African Americans weren’t too happy that they couldn’t vote and so they lobbied it got that changed. So, by the middle of the last century, any adult over the age of 21 could vote. That’s right, 21. Then, in 1971, legislators realizing that it wasn’t fair that the military could draft people who were eighteen to fight for in Wars in Korea and Vietnam that they never got to vote for, changed the minimum age to 18. None of these changes came easily because no one likes change very much. It took hard work, fighting and lobbying, but eventually things changed.
So you (and every other American) need to ask your self a question: do you care enough to want to change things?
Voter Turnout Information:
Top Ten Reasons to Lower the Voting Age: