By Laurence M. Vance – May 22, 2018
The Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits states from denying residents who have reached the age of eighteen the right to vote. It doesn’t say that states can’t set their voting ages lower than eighteen.
The Amendment simply reads: “The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.”
A couple of years ago, I saw where some people had come up with the bright idea of giving sixteen-year-olds the right to vote. Singer Michelle Blackwell maintained at the time that “a lot of young people feel very powerless and they don’t feel that their voice matters and that’s part of the reason why there might be this absence of young participation as adults.” She believed that by lowering the voting age to sixteen more young people will pick up the voting habit.
I didn’t think much of this until I noticed recently that NPR’s Michel Martin was pushing the idea. She concluded:
Eighteen-year-olds got the vote in 1971 in large part because of the Vietnam War. The feeling was that if these citizens were old enough to fight and die in Vietnam that they should be part of the conversation about what put them there. Well, teenagers today are dying, and they are fighting. How about letting them fight where it matters—at the ballot box?
Martin then did an interview on All Things Considered with Lorelei Vaisse, who is on the youth advisory board for Vote16USA—“an organization that is trying to lower the voting age in the United States to 16.” Said Vaisse:
I have always been extremely interested in politics. I talk about politics with my dad all the time, often disagreeing with his ideas. And I thought that expanding voting rights to 16 year olds was an amazing idea because I really wanted to vote. I couldn’t wait to vote, and a lot of these issues affect 16, 17 year olds, so there’s really no reason for them to not be able to vote
Vaisse is senior at Lowell High School in San Francisco.
I fail to see the point of lowering the voting age. According to the Center for Information and Research on Learning and Engagement, in the 2014 elections, “voter turnout among people under age 30 hit its lowest level in 40 years.” Even Michel Martin acknowledges: “Eighteen to 24-year-olds barely vote now.”
I have a better idea than letting sixteen-year-olds vote. Why not let six-year-olds vote? By that age they are able to sign a voter registration form and read and mark an election ballot. Why not let them vote? What possible difference could it make? Consider the following.