Empowering the future: should the US lower the voting age?


Photo by Olga Engler

WCHS students may soon be able to vote in the local government elections. Five cities have already lowered their voting age.

By Olga Engler, Photo Manager

Takoma Park, Greenbelt, Hyattsville, Riverdale Park and Mount Rainier. All of these cities are places where the voting age has been lowered to 16 in municipal elections, otherwise known as local government elections. Maryland voting laws allow cities to lower the voting age, a change that has had a very successful turnout. Now, teenagers have a larger impact on local elections and can advocate for themselves better.

According to Vote16USA, the first city in Maryland to lower the voting age was Takoma Park in 2013. 16 and 17-year-olds have proven to be capable and willing to vote in their community and government. Many teenagers believe they should be able to have their voice heard because they are just as knowledgeable about government and deserve to have an impact on their future within the state.

Currently, there is a debate on whether or not the voting age will be lowered in Rockville, Maryland, where many WCHS students live. This means that soon many sophomores and juniors in WCHS may be able to vote in local elections. But will high schoolers actually vote? Does this policy change anything?

“I think that we deserve to be able to vote in municipal elections,” WCHS sophomore Tessa Hagger said. “We are required to take government classes so we understand politics and government just as well as any adult so we should have the right to vote and make an impact just like any adult.”

Teenagers have issues that matter to them and they deserve to have their voices heard. Many have jobs, drive and care about their communities. Young people are invested in the country and its future, and many believe that they should have a vote in it.

“If we can vote for municipal elections when we are this age when we are 18 and are allowed to vote for larger elections, we will already have knowledge and experience with voting,” WCHS sophomore Annika Jamison said. “I think that that could really help with creating higher voter turnout because that is a really big issue right now.”

According to MarylandMatters, in Takoma Park, a high number of teenagers voted in their local elections. It has already been proven that teenagers can, and will, vote given the chance. This chance might possibly be given to other teenagers in other cities, not just select ones.

“I know people might say that we are too young, or immature to vote,” Hagger said. “But that is not true. If we are old enough to work and drive, we are old enough to vote.”

Some people might argue that because teenagers do not typically live on their own, they do not understand the impact of their actions. However, according to a study in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, “adolescents in this age range are developmentally ready to vote.” Other countries allow teenagers to vote, and not being in major adult life decisions does not mean that they are incapable of understanding and making political decisions.

“I was really surprised when I heard that other countries allow 16-year-olds to vote, but later it made sense,” Jamison said. “In Scotland, teenagers can vote and it’s actually a really good thing. I think we should be able to do that as well. I know that I want to, at least.”

Other countries already allow teenagers to vote. In the United States, the idea that teenagers should have the freedom of speech is not new, but the idea of beginning to vote at 16 is.

“I really hope that this policy will be passed,” Hagger said. “I know that I will definitely vote if the voting age is lowered. I want to make an impact.”

Whether or not people agree or disagree with this new policy, there is a high probability of it being passed. Students at WCHS now have to consider if they want a vote in their local elections and take part in the democratic process. Even if it does not get passed in Montgomery County, students now can take the time to reflect on this issue.

“I know that voting for small-time elections like student government is important,” Jamison said. “But this is much bigger and makes a much larger difference. I hope that this policy gets passed.”