Voting rights are given to citizens of age 18 and above in many countries across the world. The reason may be the maturity in thinking and decision making. However, it is not necessary that these decision makers have always taken the right decision in electing officials. They might have elected officials who did not compete in elections with an intention to develop the country but to gain power. So, it raises questions on decision making of people who are 18 and above. It raises another possibility: should voting age be lowered down to 16? This decision will impact the outcome of elections significantly.
Some municipalities in the U.S. have allowed 16- and 17-year-old citizens in local elections. Few other municipalities also followed the suit. Takoma Park, Hyattsville, Greenbelt, and others are some of the cities which lowered the voting age to 16. It also helps in instilling habit of voting in the early age. When these citizens will turn 18, there is more probability of them voting as they voted earlier.
The recent shooting incident in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida raised concerns about law and order in the U.S. The laws and regulations implemented by elected officials may not be favorable to keep law and order in the country. The open gun firing incidents convey that the change in laws and regulations is needed. Survivors of tragedy spoke about gun control reformation. They also raised the issue for a nationwide debate and asked legislators to not offer only “thoughts and prayers”. Youth advocates in Takoma Park convinced the city council to lower the voting age to 16 and allow young people to have voice in local governance and governments to take young people’s voices into consideration.
One of the most discussed concern about lowering the voting age to 16 is the maturity to take decision on electing officials. Some cognitive brain development studies show that brains are fully developed at the age of 16 to reason and make decisions. The students from Parkland proved this. The young advocates who demand change are mostly 16- and 17-year-olds. They began #NeverAgainMovement to protest lack of gun control reforms nationally. They called out politicians such as Donald Trump and others due to lack of support to gun control laws and their ties to NRA. They have organized rallies and engaged the media to gain nationwide attention to the issue. However, these people are unable to participate in the democracy of the U.S. for next few years.
The gunman in Florida high school was 19, which gave him right to vote. But that age does not ensure maturity. This has been understood by several cities of the U.S. and countries such as Austria and Scotland. In the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, youth aged between 16 and 17 was specifically involved to demand support from politicians across the country to lower the voting age. Moreover, the United Kingdom will pass a law to lower the age of voting in next few years.
These incidents show that the rolling down the voting age to 16 and better civics education would give rise to a new generation of smart leaders. The movement to lower the age should start in other countries as well. Having a young voice in elections would play a significant part in shaping the future of the country.