Should Teenagers Be Able to Vote?

Let’s talk about teenagers voting and should teenagers be able to vote in the first place.

In North America and many other places around the world, the age at which somebody can first vote is 18 so it’s already decided that teenagers can vote, but only once they pass the threshold into adulthood.

But what about younger teens voting? 13 year olds? 16 year olds? Should teens be able to vote? That’s the big question when it comes to lowering the voting age.

We’re going to be looking at this through the context of teens voting in the United States, which also mirrors Canada and a number of other countries.

Voting rights can be a great debate topic for teenagers because a lot of the logical arguments people will make against it can be contrasted and fairly easily turned on their heads.

Reasons Teenagers Should Be Able to Vote

teenage voting rights

The reasons that teenagers should be able to vote go hand-in-hand with many of the arguments in favor of lowering the voting age which we’ll be highlighting in just a few moments.

In the meantime, here’s a quick overview:

  • Teens can pay taxes,
  • Teens have to follow the laws (for example: punishments for underage drinking),
  • Teens are going to live with the fallout of elections and laws that are passed,
  • 18 and 19 year olds are the age of majority in many places so teens can already vote.

Should The Voting Age Be Lowered?

voting age lowered

Here’s the real question.

We already know that 18 and 19 year olds can vote in many places around the world, but what about lowering the age of voting? Should the voting age be even lower, so that people can start voting once they enter their teens, or what about even younger?

Reasons to Lower The Voting Age

Here are some of the arguments in favor of lowering the voting age. Are you able to come up with strong rebuttals for any of these?

Representation

Many people who are too young to vote are still saddled with many of the same responsibilities as adults. Not universally, but there are many teens who are primary caregivers for somebody, or who work jobs and pay taxes, so why shouldn’t they have a say in who represents them in government?

They’re Already Politically Active

While young people are less likely to vote than older people, they are still interested in politics and being politically active. For instance, when there are protests all around the world, many of the participants skew to the younger age groups.

In fact, certain places have lowered the voting age (for instance, Maryland, Norway, Scotland, and more) for various elections and referendums, and the voting turnout for younger people has been significant.

The youth want to vote, so why shouldn’t they have that right like everyone else?

They Contribute

Teenagers who work jobs are paying taxes, they’re volunteering in their communities, they’re spending money to help the economy… Teens are contributing to society in a lot of ways, and they’re going to be the ones who live with the outcomes of elections and the decisions of the politicians for decades to come. They deserve to shape those outcomes, don’t they?

Increases Turnout

As mentioned above, teens turn out to vote when they’re allowed to. A higher turnout is a good thing, it means more citizens are involved in the decision and the results will better reflect the interests of the community that the politicians will be representing.

If you don’t like the decisions that your politicians are making, vote for ones that will do better. Politicians represent the voters, if people aren’t voting, there’s no incentive for politicians to listen to what those people want. If it seems like politicians are always acting in the interest of older citizens, for example, that’s because older people are a lot more likely to vote historically.

Good Habits

Allowing people to get into the habit of voting at a younger age will likely increase the number of people who vote when they’re older.

It can be a challenge to vote sometimes when you’re busy, you have a family and a full-time career and other things to do. Getting into the habit of voting, and understanding the importance of it from a younger age, can help to get people into the habit before it becomes more of a hurdle to vote.

Read more about healthy habits for teens.

Myths About Teens Voting

Some people are against the idea of teenagers voting altogether, or at least against the idea of lowering the voting age. For the sake of playing devil’s advocate, here are some of their arguments.

Myth: Teens Are Too Ignorant About Politics

This is always a very weak argument. While it’s true that teens don’t have as much time on earth as an older person, therefor they haven’t observed as many elections or seen the outcomes of various politicians, that doesn’t mean they’re ignorant.

This argument can be turned on its head by saying that older voters have had many more years to build up biases of their own. Is someone who votes for the same party, every single time, no matter what, and has done that for 50 years really in a position to criticize teenagers for being ignorant when it comes to voting?

Myth: It’s Bad for Democracy

People will also argue that teenagers voting is bad for democracy.

When you hear someone say this, ask yourself if they actually think it’s bad for democracy, or if it’s just bad for getting the people they support elected. If youth tend to vote a certain way, and an older citizen is arguing against youth voting, is that because the older person doesn’t want the teens swaying an election away from who the older citizen supports?

Myth: They Won’t Take It Seriously

Here’s another bad argument against teenagers voting.

People will say that teenagers won’t take voting seriously, but why would that even be a barrier for democracy? There’s no test for any other voters in regards to how seriously they take it, other than registering to vote and making it to the polls.

If a teenager is going to put in the effort to vote, that alone should show that they’re taking it seriously enough to have earned their vote.

Unless the people arguing that teens won’t take voting seriously are also willing to take away the voting rights of every other age group that doesn’t meet some qualification of seriousness, you should probably just disregard them because they haven’t put any thought into this.

There’s a strange knee-jerk reaction against teenagers voting, but when you lay out the arguments, they don’t hold a lot of weight.

Some people might ask why to teens rebel, and part of the reason is probably because they don’t feel a sense of control or influence on the world. Voting can help with that, as an added bonus.

Final Thoughts on Teenagers Being Able To Vote

Anyone who argues against teens voting in the name of protecting democracy should stop and think about how backwards their arguments are. Do they actually care about democracy, or are they just worried that teenagers are going to vote against them?

Somebody who genuinely cares about democracy would welcome higher voter participation, even if it means they’ll lose an election. Should teens be able to vote? Yes, absolutely, unless someone can present a counter-argument that actually holds water.