04 Mar Lowering the Voting age
On 1st July 1971, the 26th Amendment of the United States Constitution was ratified, lowering the age of voting from 21 to 18. The decision was taken in the light of the protests by the younger population of the state for being enabled to be drafted in the military at the age of 18 but being deprived of enfranchisement at the same age. On 24th March 2018, 2 million people all over the US, and mostly from the age bracket between15 to 24, gathered in a noisy demonstration against the existing gun procurement laws in the country. The protests of such humongous volume were organized in the aftermath of mass shootings in Maryland, Florida, which left 17 people, mostly high school students, dead. Dissenting with the school of thought that if they along with their friends were at the expense of the outcomes of the policies drafted concerning the gun laws, then why weren’t their voices and rights being considered while ratifying this same legislation in the first place. Pithily, they were demanding their right to vote.
Enfranchisement for US denizens below the age of 18- 16 and 17 years’- has been making rounds in the electoral circles of US Congress. A voting bill put forth for legislation was quashed by the Washington D.C. council with 7-6 majority against lowering the age limit to cast a vote in the ballots for the district elections. The council legislators argued that individuals below the age of 18(from 16-17) are prone to uninformed decision making and lack maturity. A case for being coerced to vote in a certain manner was also cited for the 16-year-olds. Although there is no denying that 16 and 17-year-old high school attendees lack life experience in general, but the very same argument doesn’t make a strong case when it comes to voting for the same class. Being legally allowed to work, pay taxes and drive around on the country’s roads with a veritable license are some of the responsibilities these individuals share with those above their age, who enjoy the suffrage as well. Therefore, conflict of interest is summoned in abnegating the right to vote for the disenfranchised in question.
Even though the 16-year-olds do share a modicum of responsibilities with the adults who can vote, opponents argue that these duties do not paint the complete picture. These individuals are still not permitted to apply for a credit card, cannot work full time and participation in a jury is out of bounds as well. All these claims are nonetheless valid, but they all stem from the same narrative of lack of experience.
Interestingly many social psychologists, Laurence Steinberg being one of them, have stated that experience shouldn’t be considered the sole parameter while deciding upon the intellectual capacity of individuals, which in turn is linked to casting a vote. Dr. Steinberg says that it is paramount to distinguish between cold cognition and hot cognition to assert the credibility of the decision-making process of an individual. Cold cognitive abilities are those which we make use of in a calm situation when we have time to deliberate and reason logically with the facts. Hot cognitive abilities, on the other hand, require self-regulation in times of an emotionally charged atmosphere. Psychological evidence backed by neuroscientific findings has shown that skills necessary to make informed decisions are fortified by mid-adolescence whereas those governing self-regulation aren’t fully developed until the early 20s. Concomitantly studies have also elicited the fact that voting is a routine activity. That one is more likely to vote consistently if the habit has been developed at an early age when the individuals are still in familiar territory with their parents. It has also been observed that the voting numbers drop drastically for those who leave their homes for college or work, which usually happens around 18 or post 18.
Therefore, science firmly substantiates the plea for lowering the voting age in the US to 16. But everyday experience tells us that it can potentially be deleterious to the values of the US constitution, with regards to the existing political and jingoist cultural climate in the country. So, what do you think, Should the voting age be lowered or not?