Protestors at the March for Our Lives in March 2018 carry portraits of the 17 people who were killed in the Parkland, Fla. shooting. The portraits were drawn by Gracie Pekrul, 16, a student of Simi Valley Oak Park Independent School. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Geffen Academy at UCLA

Opinion: Too young to vote? Why our voting age should be lowered to 16

How important is it to vote?

This past election made me realize the true significance of voting, and has led me to wonder why the voting age is so high when high school students like myself have just as valid political opinions as many adults. I find it ironic that many of those who encourage people to vote are minors, and cannot submit a ballot solely because of their age.

Modernization through the form of technology has given students a platform to express their viewpoints, so why can we not vote?

Unlike previous generations, students have access to a variety of digital sources to formulate a political opinion at a young age. Social media apps such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are outlets that provide political and societal views to many users who are not old enough to vote.

According to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey nine in 10 teenagers say that they use social media. Students who find interest in these topics have the capability to use the internet as a platform for research with the intent of forming their political viewpoints. 

At the age of 15, I am already informed about the importance of voting, and I have been able to educate myself on a variety of topics with regard to politics. I find it absurd that high school students like myself must wait to turn 18 to vote when we obtain our opinions at a much younger age and have the ability to make calculated decisions on our own. 

Critics argue that teenagers are reckless and uneducated, but have no rational data to back their claim. In a 2018 New York Times opinion article, Laurence Steinberg wrote that studies have shown by the age of 16, adolescents have the necessary skills to make informed decisions. 

In addition to the ability that students have to construct their political outlooks, I believe that lowering the voting age will encourage students to vote, which will result in a wider variety of overall voters. 

With our recent election, I, as a high school student, felt helpless. It goes without saying that this presidential election was of great significance for many years to come, and the fact that I could not vote because of my age is just not fair.

In recent elections, studies have shown that the majority of ballots cast have come from older, white voters. If our government could provide minority groups and teenagers with an opportunity for voter registration, then more diversity would be present among voters within the United States. 

Students should have a say in their futures, and lowering the voting age will only encourage us to go to the polls and increase voter turnout in younger communities. By doing so, the demographic of voters will not only broaden, but it will also give students like myself a chance to make an impact.

Just because we are young, it does not mean that we are uneducated and that our voices do not matter.

Dani McLaughlin agrees with me on this point, and in an article published by Campaign Legal Center, she claims that teens are engaged and hold opinions on policies that impact their lives, but still have no voice.

Not only is the youth more eager to vote than in previous elections, but now more than ever, we are the ones who encourage change. 

In recent years, it has become evident that the youth, more than anyone else, has been a significant factor in inciting change. From protesting for gun control, climate change and racial equality, teenagers have illustrated their passion for many political topics.

Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, expressed the influence that our youth has with regard to our government in a speech in 2018 at an anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as reported by CNN.

“We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks,” González said in her 2018 speech. “Not because we’re going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because, just as David Hogg said, we are going to be the last mass shooting. Just like Tinker v. Des Moines, we are going to change the law.”

Another high school student that has taken the internet by storm, Greta Thunberg, has used her social media platform as a way to combat the ongoing consequences of climate change.

Although many may not agree with her stance on the environmental topic, she has proven these critics wrong with her persuasive use of language along with her passion for the subject. Not only has she helped impact many lives at the young age of 17, but she has also inspired our youth to follow in her footsteps.

In the United Nations Youth Climate Summit that took place on Sept. 21, 2019, Thunberg implored, that young people are not only united, but unstoppable, according to the Irish Times

Times are rapidly changing, and young people care more about politics than in past generations.

As a high school student, I admit that I do not know all the answers, but I find it irrational that our viewpoints are diminished because of our age. Fifty years ago, adolescents who served in our army fought for the voting age to be lowered from 21 to 18.

They argued that, if they were old enough to go to war, then it should be their right to vote. They succeeded, and due to the 26th Amendment that prohibits the government to use age as a way to deny voters, they have that right.

Now, we fight for this age to be lowered once more. Not only do high schoolers have the capability of forming a valid political viewpoint, but it has also been proven that lowering the voting age will motivate them to vote in the following elections.

Karen Dolan explains in a Buzzfeed News article that studies show voting is a habit, and that voters are more likely to vote in every election if they vote the first year they are eligible.  

In times like today, it is imperative that everyone who cares about what is to come has the ability to vote. 

For many years, the political opinions of high school students like myself have been looked down upon by those who are older. This is done despite our ample knowledge of many political topics provided to us through the means of technology.

We should be able to have a say in our futures, and the fact that we currently do not have that right baffles me. There exist many positives that will come out of lowering the age to vote, and I hope that I will witness the day when our youth will be granted the right to cast a ballot.