Include teens at the polls: young people deserve a say in local, federal elections


The best way to change the country isn’t complaining over social media, like many stereotypes teens as doing. Amidst school shootings, sexual assault allegations and racial injustices, teenagers are more politically active now than ever, according to The Associated Press. So, we have to include them. The best way to make a change is teenagers with a vote.

Midterm elections, which took place on Tuesday, Nov. 6, reported higher millennial turnout rates than ever before. More than 3.3 million voters between ages 18 to 29 submitted early ballots, a 188 percent increase from 2014, according to The Atlantic. Results from ABC News exit polls showed that millennials represented 13 percent of the voting population, up from 11 percent in 2014.

Younger voters correlate to more involvement, which is essential in any democracy. By lowering the voting age to 16, voter turnout will only continue to increase. More teenage voters means more parent voters who will uphold their civic duties and set examples for their children. In Denmark, when parents accompanied their voting-aged kids, the “election turnout increased 2.7 percentage points for the parents,” according to The Washington Post.

Skeptics argue that 16-year-olds lack maturity and the ability to make informed decisions. While it’s true that teenage brains are not fully developed, it’s important to take both “hot” and “cold” cognition into consideration.

Neuropsychologists associate “cold” cognition with logical reasoning and decision-making in calm situations. According to the National Center for Biology Information (NCBI), this type of thinking fully develops by age 16.
But, “hot” cognition deals with risky, impulsive decisions in stressful scenarios. This cognitive ability does not develop until age 22, according to the NCBI. Voting is a prime example of “cold” cognition, as it requires deliberate, rational thought.

Neither time nor pressure are dominant factors in the voting booth. Several cities have already lowered their voting ages to 16 for local elections. In Takoma Park, Md., voters under 18 had four times the turnout than voters above 18, according to The Washington Post.

As this movement gains traction across the country, it now has the potential to become federal law. H.J. Res. 138 is a house joint resolution that proposes lowering the national voting age to 16 for all federal, state and local elections. H.J. Res. 138 would repeal the 26th Amendment, which establishes the voting age as 18. If approved, it will be the second time the country has repealed a constitutional amendment, after the overturning of Prohibition in 1933, according to the National Constitution Center.

16-year-olds can pay taxes and drive a car, but don’t have a say in the future of the country. With legislation like H.J. Res 138, teenagers may finally be able to say, “I Voted Today.”