Lowering the Voting Age to 16 Is Too Much Power for Teens

Jeanne Sager

who votedHow's this for a reminder that kids grow up awfully fast? A group of teenagers in Connecticut is rallying to have the voting age dropped from the national 18 to 16, at least where municipal elections are concerned. The way they see it, teenagers can be charged with adult crimes, so why not have adult privileges?

Oh man, this is a tough one. As a parent, I want my kid to be civic-minded. I want her to WANT to vote well before she can for the sake of our country's future. I remember counting the days until my first election after turning 18, and feeling real pain when a move across state lines too close to the registration deadline kept me from casting my ballot. I also remember I was a lot more serious about the elections at 18 than most of my peers. I was ready; they weren't.

Ask a room full of parents the "perfect age" for kids to do something, and you're bound to get a different answer from every single one. Look at the debate that rages on between permissive parents who let their tots on Facebook vs. the hard-core moms who have a solid ban on social media for their teens. Look at the parents who won't hire a babysitter who's under 21 sitting beside the parent whose 13-year-old has a steady list of clients calling for her to wrangle their children.

It's not just a matter of parents' personal feelings but the fact that not all kids are created equal. Age does not beget maturity. There are 16-year-olds who are ready to head off for college, and there are 16-year-olds who can't be left alone in a house for more than five hours.

Now imagine letting one of the latter choose your next mayor. Scared? Me too. The "smart" teenagers will be voting on issues. The "I lit my farts on fire just to get on Tosh.0" kid will be writing in Hugh Jass and Ben Dover. It's bad enough, frankly, that we have adults who don't take the issues of the day seriously enough to do a little reading before they head to the polls. Do we really need to add kids to that mix?

You can't cherry pick the serious kids for a law change. Give in to these great, inspiring, civic-minded teens begging to be allowed to cast their say on municipal issues, and you have to give in to all. And unfortunately "all" are not as dedicated as the few. These kids begging for the chance may well just be the exception that proves the rule.

Alas, without a "perfect age" for maturity, I'm going to side with keeping kids "kids" until they hit maturity under the law's eyes ... if not in actual actions. It's easier than trying to weigh out whether each kid is ready.

Do you think teens are ready to vote? Should they have more say than they're currently afforded?


Image via robertpalmer/Flickr

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