Pros and Cons of Lowering the Voting Age to Sixteen: Giving Children a Participation Opportunity or Risking the Country’s Future?
Reforms to reduce the voting age to sixteen years old are considered as means of increasing voter turnout rates.
Supporters of such reforms argue that young people would get to vote for the first time while in school. Sixteen and seventeen-year-olds do not appear to be mature enough to vote, say opponents.
In several countries, including Argentina, Austria, Brazil, and Ecuador, citizens can vote at the age of sixteen in elections.
The pros and cons of lowering the voting age to sixteen have already generated a debate in the fundamental rights regime, as voting is considered one such right in modern-day democracies.
The efforts for such electoral reforms have also been conducted in the US in many states since the 1990s.
In February 2018, the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, reopened the debate about letting young people vote and decide their own future.
Currently, seventeen states allow teens to participate in caucus voting if they turn eighteen before Election Day.
A majority of states have rejected previous bills to lower the voting age, citing immaturity and inadequate civics education.
Pros and Cons of Lowering the Voting Age
A Lower Voting Age Would Help Democracy
People choose their own representatives in a democracy, so a perfect democracy would ensure maximum participation of people in all electoral regimes.
If the voting age were lowered, the results of every election would more accurately reflect the majority of the population.
Boosting Voter Turnout: A Potential Benefit
Bringing the voting age down may also increase turnout in elections. America has a low voter turnout, with 55.7% of eligible voters voting in 2016 and 66.7% in 2020.
By decreasing the voting age, countries like the United States could also attract a larger number of people who are willing to vote, just like in Austria.
Participation of Youth Positively Impacts Society
The people should be able to influence the laws that affect their lives and have a say in the future of their country as soon as they turn sixteen.
It will also provide young people with a genuine opportunity to have a positive impact on societies in a peaceful and productive manner.
It Cultivates a Societal Engagement Habit
It is during the ages of sixteen and seventeen that people develop habits that influence their daily lives as adults.
Voting encourages teens to be engaged with society earlier in their lives, making them responsible citizens.
Teens are Rational
Teenagers tend to struggle with managing their emotions and controlling their impulses, but they are also able to make logical and rational decisions.
At their calmest, they can think like adults, if not better. Therefore, they can weigh the pros and cons of each issue during an election and deduce which course of action is logical.
Cons of Reducing Voting Age
Teens are not Given Many Other Mature Responsibilities
The prohibition on voting for sixteen-year-olds is compatible with many other rules that control their behavior until they reach the age of eighteen.
Teenagers under the age of sixteen are not permitted to work full-time, register for a credit card, serve on a jury, or be held responsible for their own debts in most countries.
So, increasing the voting age will not sync with other responsibilities assigned to them in the early ages.
A Young Brain Isn’t Mature
The most common grounds which the proponents of not giving children a right to vote in early ages say that a sixteen or seventeen-year-old child is not mature enough, so they cannot be given a right to vote, which will ultimately impact everyone in the society.
Teenagers Tend to Take More Risks than Adults
According to a study conducted by the CDC America, as many as 24% of high school students use e-cigarettes, compared to over 16% smoking among adults.
Taking risks is much more common among teens than adults, and the issue is pervasive across all the spectrums of lives. So they are also likely to make risky decisions while voting.
Parental Impacts on Voting Decisions
The argument of parental pressure also holds water. Lowering the voting age will encourage parents to perpetuate their political ideologies using their children’s votes.
Reduced Voting Age Impacts: Is the Hype worth the Value?
Studies suggest that lowering the voting age has a substantial impact on the way countries work. The change may actually have a positive effect on future turnout trends.
First-time voters turn out more frequently due to the curiosity that they see before elections.
Eventually, young people may learn the habit of voting rather than abstaining, which will result in an increase in aggregate turnout.
Austria: A Role Model for Many Other Countries
As the voting age was lowered in Austria, young people’s political interest increased dramatically.
Electoral law reform in Austria in 2007 lowered the voting age from eighteen to sixteen years. As of then, sixteen-year-olds are allowed to vote in general, municipal, federal, and presidential elections as well as European Parliament elections.
In 2008, the first national election where sixteen-year-olds could vote, 88% of first-time voters cast their ballots. The average voter turnout corresponds to a positive starting effect.
While the turnout in the 2013 election decreased to only 63%, according to the Austrian National Election Study, it rose again in the 2017 elections.
There was no notable change in Austria’s political landscape as a result of lowering the voting age. In spite of this, making young people habitual voters and introducing them to the political process was an important change.
Data from the Eurobarometer European Youth indicate that a positive trend has begun. Austria ranks first in the turnout of young voters between the ages of fifteen and thirty, along with Italy.
Austria’s young voters said 79% had participated in local, regional, or national elections during the previous three years, and more than 64% across Europe.