Lowering voting age to 16 is a bad idea
In my tenure as a student columnist, I've written about voting — how I think young people should become active in politics, why I think the Gen-Z vote is extremely important, and why I think making our voices heard is the most important thing we can do as U.S. citizens.
In recent weeks, Oregon lawmakers have introduced Joint Senate Resolution 22, which proposes that the voting age be lowered from 18 to 16 via an amendment to the state Constitution.
If the Legislature goes on to pass the resolution, it would be on the 2020 ballot, which just so happens to be the first year that my peers and I have the opportunity to vote at age 18.
Voting in America is a privilege that hasn't always been extended to all. It began as a right extended only to white, land-owning males, and has since grown to citizens of any race, gender or socioeconomic status.
There are still many limitations on who can vote, though — those living in U.S. territories, convicted felons and mentally incompetent individuals do not have the right to vote. Many of these people are still affected by the duties of being an adult in the United States. They must pay taxes, they are able to sign legally binding contracts, and they are able to enlist in the military — unlike a 16-year-old.
While some 16-year-olds may have to pay taxes if they earn enough income from their jobs, this requirement does not apply to all teenagers. Thus, the right to vote should not be extended to all teenagers if they do not have the same obligations.
Many 16-year-olds are affected by issues that appear on ballots each election cycle — school safety, gun laws, climate change — and their voices on these issues definitely should be heard. However, it doesn't seem logical to extend the voting right to teens who may not be educated on all of the subjects they are able to vote on.
Gun control may be one of the more important issues that face teenagers today, but their views on infrastructure or foreign policy may not be as well researched.
Don't get me wrong, I'll be the first to tell you that teenagers deserve just as equal a voice as adults in issues that affect them. It doesn't seem fair to me, though, that teenagers should be afforded the same voting rights as those who are forced to take on more responsibilities.
In 1971, Congress ratified the 26th Amendment to change the voting age from 21 to 18. The basis of this argument was that young men who were being drafted to go fight and sacrifice their lives for this country were not afforded the right to vote.
They had a point, as these young soldiers didn't have any say in the laws or policies of the country they were risking their lives to serve.
Teenagers in some senses are in a similar boat; we are in danger, along with people of all ages, during our daily lives. This danger, though, is not a direct result of government actions. Of course, more could be done bureaucratically to stop gun violence, but those aren't the only solutions.
This is an issue that has no definitive answer, and of course, my opinion isn't the be-all, end-all. I do think that young people's view on the subject should be considered and heard, but you must ask yourself: Should every 16-year-old be weighing in on local and national issues?
Alyson Johnston is a junior at Wilsonville High School.