After publishing its inaugural issue last year, The Spartan Press (ICA Cristo Rey’s student newspaper) is expanding into new content areas in this year’s issues. One of those areas is opinion/editorial writing, and the paper has entered into a unique collaboration with Riordan High School’s Crusader, publishing side-by-side editorials by writers from both schools on a variety of topics relevant to young people today. This collaboration was proposed by Susan Sutton ‘89, who oversees The Crusader at Riordan and who worked on the student newspaper (then called The Megaphone) as an ICA student.
The latest collaboration focused on the issue of the voting age, and whether it should be lowered in national, state, and/or local elections. Both op-eds are reprinted below.
By Christina Green ‘20
Student activism in the wake of the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida has brought new life to the debate over letting younger people vote. Although many individuals view this idea as unwise, it is fact intended to create lifelong voters and to help counter a national epidemic of voter disengagement.
Unfortunately, when it comes to electing lawmakers whose decisions about gun control and other issues affecting their lives, high schoolers lack any real power. This needs to change: the federal voting age in the United States should be lowered from 18 to 16.
First, 16-year-olds are just as knowledgeable about politics and have the same ability to make good voting choices as older voters. According to a study in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, “on measures of civic knowledge, political skills, political efficacy, and tolerance, 16-year-olds, on average, are obtaining scores similar to those of adults.” In addition, psychologists believe that 16-year-olds have “cold cognition” skills: those used to make the kind of informed, well-thought-out choices needed to vote.
Secondly, lowering the voting age to 16 will increase voter turnout and develop lifelong voting habits. The U.S. has one of the lowest voter turnout rates among developed countries. A person who votes in one election has a 13% greater probability than a non-voter of voting in a future election. Furthermore, involving young people in voting can have a “trickle-up” effect on their parents and other adults in their households.
Lastly, at the age of 16, people should have a voice in the laws that affect their lives and the future of their country. Students today live under threats to their futures such as school shootings and climate change, and they deserve to have influence over their elected officials beyond the protests they’ve organized.
Congress should give young people more than just their voices to make a change.
By John McQuaid, Riordan ‘22
The voting age in America has been set at 18 years old since 1970, when activists managed to pass the 26th Amendment. Since then, several groups have tried to change local voting ages.
In California, a 2005 resolution made it possible for cities and counties to lower their voting age to 16 years old. Now, it is time that San Francisco made use of this resolution and lower the age required to vote in its elections.
An important argument in favor of letting younger citizens vote is the fact that 16 and 17 year olds already contribute to the political process. We can participate in grassroots activism, campaign management, and creation of political action committees.
There have even been cases of teenagers being able to successfully run for political offices. Some cases include Derrick Seaver, 18, the only Democratic candidate for the Ohio State Legislature in 2001; Jeremy Minnier, 18, who began serving as the mayor of Aredale, Iowa in 2011; and Jeff Dunkel, 18, who served for over a decade as Mayor of Mount Carbon, Pennsylvania.
Most supporters of a lower voting age also point out that restricting voting ability based on experience or intelligence is not fully democratic. Regardless, the federal government clearly already sees 16 year olds as responsible people. After all, that is when a person can obtain his driver’s license, implying that 16 and up is the point at which the government considers a person a responsible adult. It seems ridiculous that while we are allowed to drive two ton metal boxes around at high speed, we are not allowed to have a voice in our government.
If we are entrusted with the safety of ourselves and everyone on the road, why can we not be trusted with the responsibility of voting? If starting earlier makes us more likely to stay politically active as we make voting a habit, why should we not be allowed to start that good habit?