Should the voting age be raised to 21?


Fact Box

  • The US Constitution originally left voting rights to be determined by the states. But by the 1820s, Congress eliminated qualifications like land ownership in order to vote. Through the 15th and 19th amendments, voting rights were granted to Black men in 1869 and then later women in 1919. 
  • In 1971, Congress passed the 26th Amendment to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 while the country was in the throes of young adult involvement in the Vietnam war
  • A 2019 Hill-HarrisX poll found that amongst registered voters, 75% opposed allowing 17-year-olds to vote in elections, and an even larger amount, 84%, opposed allowing 16-year-olds to vote.
  • As of the 2020 election, Pew Research found that the majority of Republican voters and half of Democrats were aged 50 and older. This was also the first election where most US citizens born after 1996 (GenZ) were able to vote in their first election.

Bonnie (Yes)

In 1971, the US reasoned that if 18-year-olds could be drafted to fight in war, they should be permitted to vote for decisions greatly affecting their lives. The US military draft, however, has since then been replaced with an all-volunteer armed force, thus negating the original reason for lowering the voting age. 

High school and college students tend to be idealistic and easily indoctrinated by textbook theories not mediated by practical experience and research. They often base their decisions on feelings rather than logic. This demographic is also greatly swayed by social media with a clear left-leaning narrative that largely informs their political postulations.

Not until young people experience first-hand what it means to earn a living, pay bills and taxes, manage a household, or start a business will they understand how governmental policies affect them. While in school, they also tend to be overly concerned about what peers think and may simply choose to conform to gain acceptance, especially since most environments are hostile to outside thinkers (namely conservative voices and groups). 

Alcohol consumption in the US is illegal until age 21, and in December 2019, the minimum age for buying cigarettes was raised to 21. If individuals lack the maturity to handle these substances before 21, shouldn't that mean they are too immature to vote? Brain researchers confirm the fact that the human brain is not fully developed until a person reaches their 30s. So really, when considering the science, the voting age should be no younger than 21! 

Alex (No)

The movement fueling the fight to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 in 1971 used the slogan 'Old enough to fight, old enough to vote,' arguing that no one should be drafted to fight in a war (in this case, the Vietnam war) they didn't vote for. Even though there is no longer an active draft, that logic still stands—and can be taken a step further. Consider this: a significant fraction of the workforce is between the ages of 16 and 21. Nearly all states levy an income tax—shouldn't all taxpayers get a say in how their tax dollars are used? 

According to Laurence Steinberg, a professor of Psychology at Temple University, one would even be 'hard-pressed to say there are any particular abilities that develop after age 16 that are necessary to make an informed vote.' Of course, not everyone holds such a liberal view. In an Op-Ed, Jennifer C. Braceras argues that young people are unlikely to 'know enough about politics to make an informed decision' with their vote. What she ignores is how older voters aren't necessarily well informed either. In fact, every successive generation is better informed than the last, and Gen Z is reported to be 'on track to be the best-educated generation yet.' 

What's more, they're hardly uninterested: according to a Pew research report, 70% of Gen Z-ers want the government to actively solve problems in their community. Braceras also argues that young people 'don't have enough skin in the game,' which is, quite frankly, absurd. The daily reality of today's youth is one of school shootings, massive civil unrest, and looming climate change. That's plenty of skin, don't you think?

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