Opinion: Lowering the voting age is not a bad thing
Originally published in MoCo 360 on February 11, 2023.
Strong divisions exist upon the idea of lowering the voting age. Those opposed are oftentimes fueled by fear, and they have reservations about how letting younger people vote might make an impact, not only for communities but for democracy of the city of Rockville as a whole. Maturity, knowledge and involvement are frequently cited by those opposed to the idea, as many argue that young people do not care about voting and even if they did, they are not equipped or old enough to make such important decisions.
History and research have come to prove these ideas wrong and has demonstrated that there are benefits in making this a reality. Every city wants active residents that take action on important issues such as gun control, reproductive rights, and even the choosing of local representatives. Involvement drives democracy, which further allows cities to grow and instill better protocols and laws. An issue that has frequently risen within Rockville is the lack of diversity within representation.
Despite being known as one of the most diverse cities in the country, the City Council size fails to be proportional to both the size and diversity of the community . Engagement helps residents truly enjoy making their homes and communities a better place, but how can people be involved if the people that sit in City Council fail to address, acknowledge, and understand the issues that the people even have.
Many City Council meetings, have demonstrated that lowering the voting age allows for the diversity within the community to be highlighted, as active involvement from different age groups, social and racial-ethnic backgrounds allow for different perspectives and ideas to come together and create solutions to the issues that the city faces. In fact, 16- and 17-year-olds do care about democracy — they care so much that many choose to take active involvement within the city through acts of social service and having jobs.
Many other towns in Maryland have seen success in lowering the voting age to 16 for local elections, as this has allowed young people to build the habit of voting and begin gaining the sense of importance in community decisions. One of the reasons that many young people choose to sway away from being involved in politics stems from the continuous idea being fed to them that their vote doesn’t matter and won’t make a difference in the large scale of things. As a young person ready to embark on the challenges the world throws at you, it can be heartbreaking to hear that not only does your voice not matter, but also that no one cares enough to want to hear you out to begin with.
Recent presidential elections showcase that Maryland has done a good job at increasing voter turnout, as the numbers have seen to be on a steady increase since the early 2000s. These statistics showcase a positive outlook for how important the civic duty of voting is to many residents. Like every other state, one of the main concerns that remains is how we can make that percentage even higher, and one of the proven ways to do this is by lowering the voting age. As research has shown throughout time, there have been higher voter turnout rates amongst young people that have the opportunity to start voting from a young age. Good voters are made, not born. The habit of voting is reinforced through the repetition of the act itself.
Conversations with various state-representatives reaffirm the idea that this is an important issue that has failed to take precedent in political agendas. There is no concrete example to model this initiative after. However, Common Cause Maryland has explored and researched venues through which this issue can gain momentum and gain the accurate attention it deserves. Through interviews with young individuals that had the opportunity to vote, we found deficiencies in the current system, like confusion around voter registration. One young voter that was interviewed mentioned how there was a lack of promotion toward young people, and not much information available regarding how the process took place or what this entailed.
During the last presidential election, young people pushed their family, friends, and classmates to go out and vote, and it helped increase voter turnout. Getting people to participate has always been a struggle that many cities and states face, but now more than ever we have seen how an increase in involvement can change communities. Young people yearn to vote and allowing them to do so would only have positive outcomes.