Senator Henry Stern (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Oak Park High School

Opinion: Should the voting age be lowered?

It is pretty much totally agreed upon that when a person turns 18, they are an adult. They move out, go to college, pay their own health insurance and, of course, vote.

But, what is the difference between being 17 and 18? Over those extra few months, does a person become more mature, or gain life experiences that would actually the way they see the world and vote?

So then, you may be wondering, what is the point changing the voting age from 17 to 18? Why can’t kids just wait one extra year until they are officially adults, and vote then?

The difference is, many students miss out on the chance to vote by just a few months, as high school juniors or seniors, and have to wait another 4 years. As I mentioned earlier, these students are probably no more or less mature than their slightly older peers, so it can be argued that it is unfair that some high school seniors are given the ability to vote over others, simply because of their age.

Again, you may be wondering, this problem likely affects a small part of the population, and there is probably no point in changing it. However, this is not the case.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with California state senator Henry Stern, a major advocator for moving the voting age down to 17. He explained the importance of this issue very simply.

According to Stern, many 18-year-olds are “in a time of transition,” moving from their hometowns to college towns, where they may not care as much about local elections, or other things happening in their new communities.

“Young voters (ages 18-24 years old) in California have the lowest turnout rate of any age demographic, leaving them drastically underrepresented. In the 2014 general election for instance, only 8.2% of California’s eligible youth voted,” Stern wrote in a press release.

This shows that lowering the voting age would be a good thing for communities. Obviously many young voters will likely participate in the presidential elections every four years. However, college students who only intend to live in their town temporarily may not participate in local elections as they feel the elections don’t affect them.

For these reasons, I am in agreement with Senator Stern on lowering the voting age. However, in order to accomplish this, we must show our legislators that we want it lowered.

Arguably the most important thing that Senator Stern told me was this: your voice matters. Call your Congressperson or state Senator today, and tell them how you feel. Start a petition, vote on this article, or just make sure you are heard.

Because in all our history, suffrage wasn’t something that a group just got. We need to fight for it, and we cannot back down until we get it.

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