After the historic March for Our Lives where high school students flooded the streets of Washington to protest gun laws which lead to Florida’s Parkland shooting incident, the teenagers might soon be marching to the voting booths in the country’s capital.
In light of the recent events which has proved that the generation following the millennials is emerging in political power, Washington is contemplating changing the age limit for voting in order to include people as young as 16 years old to vote in federal and presidential elections.
Lowering Voting Age Limit
As part of a rapidly growing movement, a number of cities around the world are considering giving teenagers of the age sixteen or above the right to vote in elections. Councilmember Charles Allen of Washington DC believed that the city is moving in the right direction with the change in voting laws since people in America as young as 16 are already taking on a number of adult responsibilities such as working full-time jobs to pay bills and raising their voices on political, environmental, and humanitarian issues.
Furthermore, 16-year-olds are allowed to drive a car and are even paying taxes; it only makes sense to add voting rights to their long list of legal responsibilities.
Allen, who was the first democrat to propose a reduction in the voting age, says that the country could use the voice of the younger generation where it is needed the most: the ballot box. The proposed bill has already been signed by most of the D.C. Council members including Mayor Muriel Bowser.
Many, who are in favor of the move, say that the new age limit will encourage civic engagement among younger generation and give them a sense of legal responsibility. The advantages of lowering the voting age limit outweigh the usual criticism from opponents who say that children as young as sixteen don’t have enough life experience or political knowledge to make sound voting decisions.
Protests Against Gun Violence May Have Prompted the Decision
According to Allen, the enthusiasm shown by high school teenage activists in protests against gun violence incidents in the country inspired the democrats to introduce the change.
Two years ago, the idea of lowering the voting age limit would have sounded absurd to most who perceived sixteen-year-olds as childish and immature but in light of recent events, the government has legitimate grounds for amending the law and there isn’t much anyone can say to argue the fact that the younger generation can wield as much political power as the rest of the adult population.
Other Jurisdictions around Washington have already implemented the change into their voting laws. For example, Takoma Park, Maryland was the first jurisdiction to lower the voting age limit to 16 in 2013. Other cities like California and Berkley soon followed suit, although the sixteen and seventeen-year-olds have only been allowed to vote in municipal elections until now since none of the cities were able to implement the change at a federal level.
Now, the District of Colombia could become the first city/ pseudo-state to enfranchise teenagers as young as sixteen years of age to partake in all elections from district to presidential.
Is it a Wise Decision?
Since the shooting incident in Parkland, almost a dozen states including Georgia and Minnesota are considering lowering the voting age limit, although the law could be blocked in states with Democratic stronghold such as New York and California.
Despite the introduction of the legislation in several states, the law has not yet been passed on a federal level due to legal roadblocks.
Advocates of the new age limit say that voting is a habit which sixteen-year-olds are more likely to develop, if allowed, than eighteen-year-olds who are already in a transition phase of moving away from home, going to college, or starting new jobs, and don’t consider voting at the top of their priority list.
Critics say that including teenagers in the pool of voters may backfire if they haven’t developed logical decision-making skills. Many believe that the younger generation should be put through a civic test before granting them voting right.
Do you think letting teenagers as young as sixteen years old vote in federal elections is a wise decision?