In an effort to get more young people involved in the democratic process, many states are attempting lowering the voting age to 17 to get young people active. “A lot of young people last year wanted to make their voices heard but were unable to do so because the rules prevented them,” said Jonathan Brater of the Brennan Center for Democracy.
Since 1971, the legal voting age in the United States has been 18, lowered from 21. Today like then, the numerous states across the U.S are attempting to lower the voting age in the General Election to 17 tend to have strong Democratic majorities in their State senators and House legislatures. Among them, California, Minnesota, and Nevada are the most prominent states in this effort, with California leading the way.
If constitutional amendment 10 passes in California, 17-year old’s, would be allowed to vote in the general election during a Presidential election.
In California, the Democrats own a super majority in the House and the Senate and own the Governor’s House, while in Minnesota the Democrats own the Governor’s mansion and Republicans have control of the Senate and House. In Nevada, the Democrats own a majority in the State assembly and the state senate, but Republicans have control over the Governorship.
Democrats have been generally in favor of lowering the voting age, as it tends to help them. Republicans broadly oppose the change. A majority of polls have shown that high school age kids are in favor of Democratic policies.
States like California have seen a high level of youth activity in this last election cycle as numerous high schools in California have had walkouts in protest of President Donald Trump.
There are students who oppose the measure, like Tyler Christensen a California high school student. “Every poll I’ve seen says that young people lean toward voting for Democrats, so I believe it’s self-serving,” Christensen said regarding the issue.
In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton won the youth vote with 55 percent of the millennial vote while President Donald Trump got 37 percent of the youth vote. In 2012, the youth vote overwhelmingly went for President Barack Obama, with 60 percent going to President Obama and 37 percent going to Mitt Romney.
Despite all the negativity toward young people and their lack of involvement in the Democratic process, the youth vote (and the Millennial vote) has seen upward movement since the 2000 election. Since the 2000 election the 18-29-year-old age group has risen in participation by an average of 7 percent.
According to a pew research poll, Belgium, Turkey, Sweden, and South Korea lead developed countries for youth participations in elections. While Chile, Switzerland and Australia are at the bottom of the list for youth participation.
“It’s really about civics and the habits and patterns of democracy and making sure people are engaged in their government,” California state assemblyman Evan Low (who is the bills main sponsor) said.
Some of the highest voter turnouts in the United States have not been votes for representatives, but for ballot referendums like pot legalization which has been on ballots throughout the United States. The most famous, in Colorado, which was the first to legalize pot in 2012, saw a voter turnout for amendment 64, reaching 68.55 percent. The measure passed with 55.32 voting yes and 44.68 voting no.
Washington state, Nevada and Massachusetts also voted to legalize marijuana with a high voter turnout for their referendums than in recent elections. 1.8 million voters voted to approve marijuana legalization in Massachusetts in November 2016.
Assemblyman Low, said the he hopes that the measure would get youth voters involved early with their government. However, with all this public support in California, measures did fail to lower ages to 16 and 17 in San Francisco and Berkeley.
20 states in the United States allow teenagers who are 17 but will turn 18 on or before election day.
In my opinion, it is a good idea for the United States to get younger voters involved in civic engagement and their government but we should make sure that young people are serious about civic engagement. It is perhaps wise to be sure we educate them properly about the issues before granting them access to the most important form of participation for citizens.
Links to sources:
- Mercury News: http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/03/07/california-proposal-would-lower-voting-age-to-17/
- Pew Research: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/08/02/u-s-voter-turnout-trails-most-developed-countries/
- AP Story: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/6be9d9ee28ba49339c35e76e29bd5164/lawmakers-across-us-move-include-young-people-voting