Voting Laws in the United States

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Being an American citizen has multiple great benefits, for example, the right to vote. As people of the United States, we have the right to vote to express our beliefs and to have our voices heard. Voting is defined as, ¨a formal indication of a choice between two or more candidates or courses of action, expressed typically through a ballot or a show of hands or by voice¨. We have the freedom to choose our leaders and engage on issues that we care about, which means we can build potential in our communities and create real change. Our right to vote gives us that power. However, whether or not 16-year-olds should have the right to vote to lead us to a more engaged, better-informed society, is still up for debate.

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Many say young people are not mature enough to vote, however it should be taken into account that 16-year-olds are just as informed as 18-year-olds (in some cases or more). According to Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, the director of The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, voting is not an activity we do when the mind is ¨hot¨. Instead, we ¨rely on the part of the brain responsible for dispassionate reasoning, which matures, on average, in the mid-teens.¨(Mestel 6) Because teens can rely on ¨disspassionate reasoning¨ they will not necessarily be influenced by strong feelings. However, the youth vote also has the potential to be extremely influential in this country, young people can directly influence issues that might affect their lives for years to come. Teens have enough knowledge to simply know what they are doing because most Americans cannot even name the three branches of government. Teens obtain nearly the same amount of knowledge as adults. Youniss uses standardized test scores and survey data to argue that ‘on measures of civic knowledge, political interest, political efficacy [believing that voting matters], and participation in public life, [volunteering and contacting elected officials], 16-year-olds, on average, are obtaining scores similar to those of adults.’ If teens can obtain nearly the same amount of knowledge as adults then why shouldn´t they be granted the right to vote? All while studies show that they demonstrate the same level of understanding of civics that 21-year-olds have, they do not have a say in who runs their communities and country. Although they are the ones affected by the consequences of decisions being made right now, teens do not have the voice that they deserve.

However, political leaders claim that teenagers are not at the age to be voting, because many do not understand how the voting system works or who they should be voting for. New York Times opponents claim that, ¨ teenagers are not mature enough to vote at 16, that they will not make informed decisions, and that Vote16USA is a partisan push to get more liberals on voter rolls.¨(Alcindor, 3) Although teenagers are allowed to work, drive, and pay taxes, most high schoolers are legally required to attend school and generally are dependent on their family. The younger a person is, the less their ability to make informed judgments, and the matter of government should not be affected by a teenager’s vote. To teenagers, it’s nothing more than a ¨moment thing¨. For example, they will choose to vote based on which political party will lower the ¨age of getting a drink or keep the clubs open¨, and which one won´t. Rather than focusing on which party will make life easier for their future. Lowering the voting age to 16 could negatively shift the patterns of voting in the country. Children at the age of 16 are still influenced by their parent´s behaviors, standards, and perspectives.Claims made by opponents say that ¨teenagers would just follow their parents´ political views¨. (Alcindor,6) Teenagers pattern their belief structures like that of politics, on the ideas that they see and hear at home. This means that the votes of these young teens would more than likely duplicate the ballots of their parents. And even though that would be their right, it does cause one to question whether or not that would be an authentic vote or one that is manipulated.

Even though many believe that teenagers aren´t mature enough to vote, 16-year-olds have proved to be ready to vote by already leading important political movements. These political movements include- rallying for gun control and confronting senators over climate change legislation. Expert Laurence Steinberg argues that the ¨student movement launched after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., last year proved young people are ready to vote¨ (Cohn,16) Powerful young activists have already made a change in history by addressing the United Nations, prepared for Supreme Court cases, have transformed schools and communities and challenged corporations and policymakers at every level of government. One thing they could not do is vote. Young people deserve to have their voices heard in a greater matter, voting gives them that right.

Lowering the voting age would also possibly increase the voting turnout. This would also allow teenagers to have a voice in their country, allowing them to weigh in on issues that directly affect them. ¨ In 2013, when Takoma Park, Maryland, lowered its voting age to 16, registered voters under 18 had a turnout rate four times higher than voters over 18.¨(Mandal 4) This shows that young people make good voters and this can be beneficial because voting helps teens learn how the civic process works in society on a personal level. Because the youth voter turnout in elections wants to be increased, we need to really consider lowering the voting age. Although this may sound like a ¨radical proposal¨, it has already been done in Maryland multiple times. Young voters are rising the election votes, they have shown much interest and could increase voter turnout.

Teens have earned their right to vote. From participating in political campaigns to showing interest in how our legal system works, they deserve a voice to address their opinions. Voting will give them that right to help contribute to making their country a better place.  

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