With the recent rise of youth activism across the country, the debate of lowering the voting age to 16 has come up once again.
While it’d be nice and dandy to assume that changing age requirements would improve democratic access, it isn’t a feasible idea, nor will it stir up real political change.
Democrats have proposed to expand voting rights to youth since 1989. Time and time again, they have failed to make this a reality. Now, the emergence of youth activists like Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg seem to present the possibility of success on a silver platter.
It won’t matter if young people are smart and capable human beings who are able to make adequate decisions unless their older representatives believe this too. Thus far, a consensus hasn’t been made in favor of youth voting, not even in the liberal and reliable blue state, California, where it’s latest legislative attempt failed in 2017.
Voting patterns for youth also don’t make lowering the voting age an easy idea to suggest to Republicans; it’s no secret that younger people tend to be more liberal.
During the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton received 55 percent of the youth vote while President Donald Trump received only 37 percent, according to the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit organization that conducts research on public policy.
At the time, there was also a map circulating around Twitter that determined what the outcome of the 2016 election would have been like based on youth votes. As expected, it was primarily a sea of blue.
This is how the future voted. This is what people 18-25 said in casting their votes. We must keep this flame alight and nurture this vision. pic.twitter.com/ivuXrar869
— Eliza Byard (@EByard) November 9, 2016
The post-millennial generation has also shown even more arguably progressive ideals, as shown through their stances on activism. However, this doesn’t go unnoticed by Republicans who would have to be incredibly foolish to support lowering the voting age.
People may be quick to compare the current efforts with those made in 1971 to eventually push the 26th Amendment (which lowered the voting age to 18) but the two situations couldn’t be more different.
When the voting age was expanded to include anyone over the age of 18, the United States was in war and 18-year-olds were being summoned to fight. The change in voting age was a reasonable suggestion. It also seemed more feasible because it had support from former President Dwight D. Eisenhower and eventually Congress.
The road to the 26th Amendment was difficult, but not impossible; the same can’t be said for current attempts.
Trying to further the debate about lowering the voting age to 16 isn’t going to gain the same traction that made the 26th Amendment possible. At this point, it’s just useless noise for people who would rather cover their ears.
The most disheartening part of this issue is that young people truly hope to inspire political change, but the current establishment of Democratic politicians are more distracted by their impractical dream of lowering the voting age. Their energies would be much better spent focused on issues like gun control, health care and LGBT rights, but instead all these efforts are wasted by pushing the same tired idea repeatedly.
If the Democrats are in favor of 16-year-olds voting, then they should actually be listening to what youth activists have to say and make that their focus instead of bothering with this political impossibility. But instead, the argument continues, this time in Washington D.C. where a District lawmaker has introduced a bill to lower the voting age to 16.
Democrats suggest false pretenses of change and hope all bundled up in a neat little bow, but in reality changing the voting age won’t make big changes as people would like to assume.
There’s no reason to believe it will suddenly remake the political landscape in favor of Democrats. It’s just another impractical possibility of recycled notions that haven’t become any more convincing.