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What can be gained through teenage suffrage

Recently, Ohio passed a state ruling that permits 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the general presidential voting in November the right to vote. Though this may seem “revolutionary” and has garnered positive feedback, there have been criticisms as well.  With a better understanding of the implications of voting at a young age, it becomes clear that the benefits heavily outweigh the drawbacks.

Seventeen-year-olds who will turn 18 by the November elections can now legally vote in Ohio after a state ruling was confirmed on March 11. After overcoming attempts to overthrow the ruling by Ohio’s Secretary of State and attempts to deface the true intentions of the law, the ruling’s motives were released to the public. It was ruled that it would only be fair for these 17-year-olds to choose whom they intended to vote for in November when they were 18. In other words, nobody enjoys voting for a candidate from a candidate pool they never had the opportunity to build. With this implementation, Ohio hopes to increase voter turnouts in the 2016 elections.   

Ohio wasn’t the only state that had poor voter turnouts in the past. In fact, the entire U.S. is notorious for its poor voting turnouts: 40 to 50 percent of voters — about nine to 13 million voters — failed to cast their votes during the 2012 presidential election. These inactive voters are even less likely to participate in proceeding elections, and with each successive election, the number of inactive voters will multiply. With America’s political health on the decline, the participation of legal voters in political debates is crucial. By lowering the voting age, the voting turnouts may increase and there would be greater political support for parties.

America was built on a democracy. By lowering the voting age, more voices will be represented and the idea of a true democracy will live up to its implications–represent as many of the people as possible. These new voices play a huge part in determining the political health of America in both the present and the future; after all, young voters are voting for the political leaders they believe will best represent them and the conditions of their future, working lives.

Laws lowering the voting age have received criticism and opposition. Many have compared the possible scenario of voting teenagers to the political disaster in “Lord of the Flies,” in which a group of stranded British children fail to govern themselves. Others claim that teens can be easily swayed because they do not keep up with current events. Both of these are false and exaggerated. Although adults still remain more informed on current events than most teenagers, the number of teens caught up on current events have risen over the past few years. In fact, with the increasing popularity of social media pages like CNN, BBC, Huffington Post and many others, teenagers are oftentimes informed with current events faster than most adults. From using Facebook daily, I myself have always been knowledgeable of recent events and the political conditions of the upcoming election. So to say that teenagers are completely insensitive towards current events is an exaggerated misconception the opponents of reduced voting age laws commonly share.

Further opposition claim that many teenagers are not politically mature enough, meaning they have insufficient knowledge of the political system. However, the majority of 17-year-olds have already taken basic civic courses, as US history or a civics class are generally a graduation requirement in most schools. These courses build the foundations necessary to understand the political system–knowledge on par with that of many voting adults.

Many people, especially teenagers, neglect the ability of their participation in politics: their support could make or break an entire political party. Often teenagers do not have adequate knowledge of the benefits of lowered voting ages because they are too influenced by the opposition against younger voters. With sufficient knowledge of the benefits, more states may implement similar voting laws like Ohio, increasing voting turnouts and, ultimately, ensuring the well-being of America’s political stability.

By Richard Zhang, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of Flickr.com