As adults and a few fortunate peers line up at the poll stations this midterm election, I will be staying at home: not because I don’t want to vote, but because I can’t. At the age of 17 and 9 months, I have been labeled as “too young” to participate by the government. At the same time, they have dictated that I am old enough to hold a job and to drive myself and others. I am responsible enough to keep people safe in my car. Am I not responsible enough to participate in the democratic traditions of the nation I am a part of?
By silencing the voices of the younger generation, the government perpetuates the elderly population’s control over government. This leads to countless laws and institutions that provide selective benefits to elderly citizens. For only Social Security, the government taxes 6.2% of workers’ incomes. Little legislation is passed regarding issues important to younger generations, such as college debt, child poverty, and gun violence. This is because elected officials don’t need to appeal to anyone under the voting age. If they keep the elderly population satisfied, they will likely have no problem getting reelected.
If the voting age is lowered, governmental officials will have a responsibility (backed by votes) to prioritize the needs of younger citizens as well. The key factor would be voter participation; as of now, 18-24 year olds have the lowest voter turnout rate of 48.5%. Opposers to lowering the voting age point to this lack of participation as evidence that young votes would hurt democracy. I would disagree with this sentiment, and counter that if more members of a society participate in an election, democracy is strengthened. Not all 16 and 17 year olds would care enough to vote, but those who do care should have a voice in our government. We would likely see a rise in political efficacy and trust in the government if voters begin participating at a younger age.
I hope that soon, citizens like me can be adequately represented in our government—but I know this can’t happen until we gain suffrage. So I say, “Let us vote!”