BY REGAN HENNING
Zoning in and out of the American history lesson, the 16-year-old scribbles down a few notes about the Stamp Act. They’re not too terribly interested in the topic because in their mind, it’s history, why should they care if it has no affect on their current life? Then, it suddenly hits the student, this might not be as historical as they thought. Getting ready to leave school to go to their job where they’ll be for the rest of the day, they wonder why they get taxed but don’t get to vote, why is it different for them? When did “no taxation without representation” suddenly stop applying?
Lowering the voting age is very controversial and many are against it due to the fact that teenagers younger than 18 “aren’t educated enough” or “haven’t fully matured”. These are very subjective arguments though and aren’t always true, as there are some people over the age of 18 that still aren’t fully matured or have enough political knowledge to vote. Teenagers, ages 16-17, are often overlooked and underestimated. Too old to rely on others but not old enough to have a voice. Many young teenagers do their research and deeply care about politics and who the president is because it is their future. Their life will be affected by the outcome and yet their voice is silenced because they couldn’t possibly know what’s best for them.
The United States Census Bureau collected voting and registration data on the 2016 presidential election and only 46.1 percent of people aged 18-29 voted. Compared to the 70.9 percent of people ages 65 and up, many people would also argue that the voting age shouldn’t be lowered because younger people don’t care enough to go and vote. Statistically this is true, less than half of young adults vote, but why take away the option from teenagers that are paying taxes that would want to vote? Some teenagers are paying more taxes than the current president and are still considered less of an adult. The majority of teenagers 16-17 might not vote, that’s undeniable, but every vote does count and that’s becoming more well known as tensions rise with this upcoming election.
Teenagers are learning to use their voice more and growing in their ideals and morals. The world has become very political lately with many different events happening like protests against police brutality and the handling of Covid-19. These are widely covered issues that have been hand molded into political stances that dominate the media. Social media has spread these topics like wildfire. 90 percent of teenagers ages 13-17 have a form of social media and see what happens in the world through that, and are able to see all sides of it from other people interacting with the posts. While 13 might be too young, 16-year-olds are able to form their own opinions based on what they see and can take the initiative to do some research to find out what the best option for them might be when it comes to who they want representing them.
One app that has blown up lately is TikTok, known for its distribution of information from creators. People are able to make short videos up to one minute, including visuals of events that actually happened or interesting pictures and text to make a point. This is unlike other social medias because it isn’t meaningless text with no evidence involved, people backup their opinions with images and videos and can make it easier to retain information. Many political and human right topics are covered and are available for millions to see, educating young teenagers. Videos can be posted of protests or clips of political figures doing good, or bad, things and show who those people might really be. A lot of teenagers have TikTok, and see these short videos and are able to take a stance on it, deciding what they believe should have happened, or shouldn’t have happened, in the situation. Just because the app can be used for dancing and lip syncing doesn’t mean the raw footage of crimes happening, and powerful political figures getting away with it, doesn’t also exist on the app. A lot of older people don’t get to see these clips because they aren’t very active on social media, especially TikTok. Only 40 percent of people ages 65 and older are on social media, meaning they might not see the same amount of coverage on these topics as teenagers unless they are doing more research.
Biased news won’t go away, so it’s important that everyone double checks the sources to see what the real truth is. This has nothing to do with the age of the person who is consuming the biased sources, 16 year olds and 65 year olds have the same responsibility when it comes to making sure they’re informed. One might have more experience when it comes to life, but the other might have a better grasp on the current issues of today and how it will directly affect them. They are both able to think for themselves, forming their own opinions, and should be able to make it official by being able to place their vote.
Working a job daily gives teenagers a lot of experience and gives them a real taste of what the world is like. Anyone that has a job knows a good deal about how the world works because they’re getting to see it firsthand and contributing to it. 16-year-olds that have a job will have a better grasp on this than their friends, who are the same age, that have never worked. On top of that experience, they are also paying their taxes and act like adult citizens which builds their maturity. The voting age should be flexible to reach anyone that is paying taxes, as it is only constitutional. Whether that be 15-year-olds or 17 year-olds, they deserve to vote for their representatives.
Driving back to their house in the pitch black of the night after their long shift, the 16-year-old can’t even bring themself to cry about their night anymore. That ship sailed after the first five times they were screamed at for no reason. They take on the responsibilities of going to school, studying, driving, having a job, dealing with angry people, and maintaining a social life daily. Life isn’t easy for them and they know how the world works by this age, so why not let them have a say in how it could improve to work better in the future? “Telling a teenager the facts of life is like giving a fish a bath,” said Arnold H. Glasgow, meaning teenagers are already living life like a fish is already living in water. Teenagers have a better grasp on political issues than most would like to think, and if they are educated then it shouldn’t be the opposite of a problem if they were allowed to vote. Unless, of course, it was not a matter of knowledge, but old, outdated ideals against the new and improved ideals that don’t discriminate against minorities.