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Politics no image

Published on November 2nd, 2012 | by Shriya Akella
Image © [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="566"] As more and more decisions in Government affect the future of today's youth, is now the time to lower to voting age to 16? © HDeakin[/caption]   As a 17-year-old Politics student, I must admit that the question of whether the voting age should be lowered has a profound importance and relevance to me. The great consensus that today’s youth is simply ignorant of politics and has no interest in the matter is entirely wrong, and the phrase ‘tarnished with the same brush’ certainly comes into mind. Why does the older generation automatically assume that the youth have no interest in politics? Admittedly, this interest is shared by only a small minority of young people, but if we take a look at the current voting age, how can one presuppose that the moment you turn 18, you suddenly become aware and engrossed in politics? In the 2010 elections, only 40% of 18-24 year olds voted. In my opinion, the above statement reinforces the fact that voting is a habit, which should start early; the earlier a person begins to vote, the more likely they are to continue doing so for the rest of their lives. If the present generation were taught more about politics beforehand, the percentage would have been much higher than 40%. It is also true that the lives of 18-year-olds are often hugely transitional, with leaving home, finding work or starting university becoming priorities which generally leave less time for considering who to vote for. But this is precisely why giving the youth the vote at 16 would reduce political apathy earlier on, giving them a responsibility and also engaging them in a wider range of interests associated with society around them. Take the 2014 Scottish referendum, for example, which will allow the 16-year-olds to voice their opinion and undoubtedly engage a significant portion of the youth, simply because they know that they have been given a big responsibility and privilege, and that their vote will really make a difference. One could argue that those voting still won’t have sufficient knowledge; that even if such a law is implemented, they still won’t be intellectually able to decide overnight who or what to vote for. They still have an adequate amount of time to be educated on the basis of politics in school, or by parents. It is almost certain that they are going to be willing to understand and learn about politics, if they knew it would benefit them, and these are the kind of skills and knowledge which will benefit them in the long term and ensure that in the future, there will not be a low turnout in elections simply because of apathy. The main argument put forward is that young people are ‘too immature’, with critics citing high rates of teenage pregnancy and crime. Well, let me ask this question, yes there are teenage pregnancies, yes there are crimes committed by teenagers, but this only a tiny minority of the youth population. Realistically, how many of the youth are juvenile delinquents and how many pregnant teenage girls do you see on a daily basis? By not giving the vote to those who are actually interested, out of fear that it will be abused by the ‘immature’ is a form of prejudice, putting those who actually want to vote at a disadvantage. Others may argue that young people, being young people, will just choose any option given on the ballot paper or spoil the ballot papers - but they are forgetting forget that this even happens now. We still see protest votes by 30-year-olds, as recently as the 2008 American elections, which featured votes for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck on ballot papers. When you have fully grown adults doing this, some young people will also, to be sure, but it still doesn’t justify not giving them the vote because of some impetuous people. A 16-year-old can get a job, get married and pay taxes but not be allowed to vote? Many more of the youths than two years ago now - why?  In order to fund themselves through university because of high tuition fees. Essentially, young people now have the more of an incentive to vote than those of previous generations. Political decisions such as the rise in tuition fees and changes to education now concern youth more than ever before; although they do not have a say whether or not it would actually benefit them, they are the generation who has to live with the consequences of these. Is that democratic? I would ask this question to all the young people of today - if you knew you had a say in today’s politics, would you not vote to save your interests?

4

The ongoing debate: should the voting age be lowered?

As more and more decisions in Government affect the future of today’s youth, is now the time to lower to voting age to 16? © HDeakin

 

As a 17-year-old Politics student, I must admit that the question of whether the voting age should be lowered has a profound importance and relevance to me.

The great consensus that today’s youth is simply ignorant of politics and has no interest in the matter is entirely wrong, and the phrase ‘tarnished with the same brush’ certainly comes into mind.

Why does the older generation automatically assume that the youth have no interest in politics? Admittedly, this interest is shared by only a small minority of young people, but if we take a look at the current voting age, how can one presuppose that the moment you turn 18, you suddenly become aware and engrossed in politics? In the 2010 elections, only 40% of 18-24 year olds voted. In my opinion, the above statement reinforces the fact that voting is a habit, which should start early; the earlier a person begins to vote, the more likely they are to continue doing so for the rest of their lives. If the present generation were taught more about politics beforehand, the percentage would have been much higher than 40%.

It is also true that the lives of 18-year-olds are often hugely transitional, with leaving home, finding work or starting university becoming priorities which generally leave less time for considering who to vote for. But this is precisely why giving the youth the vote at 16 would reduce political apathy earlier on, giving them a responsibility and also engaging them in a wider range of interests associated with society around them. Take the 2014 Scottish referendum, for example, which will allow the 16-year-olds to voice their opinion and undoubtedly engage a significant portion of the youth, simply because they know that they have been given a big responsibility and privilege, and that their vote will really make a difference.

One could argue that those voting still won’t have sufficient knowledge; that even if such a law is implemented, they still won’t be intellectually able to decide overnight who or what to vote for. They still have an adequate amount of time to be educated on the basis of politics in school, or by parents. It is almost certain that they are going to be willing to understand and learn about politics, if they knew it would benefit them, and these are the kind of skills and knowledge which will benefit them in the long term and ensure that in the future, there will not be a low turnout in elections simply because of apathy.

The main argument put forward is that young people are ‘too immature’, with critics citing high rates of teenage pregnancy and crime. Well, let me ask this question, yes there are teenage pregnancies, yes there are crimes committed by teenagers, but this only a tiny minority of the youth population. Realistically, how many of the youth are juvenile delinquents and how many pregnant teenage girls do you see on a daily basis? By not giving the vote to those who are actually interested, out of fear that it will be abused by the ‘immature’ is a form of prejudice, putting those who actually want to vote at a disadvantage.

Others may argue that young people, being young people, will just choose any option given on the ballot paper or spoil the ballot papers – but they are forgetting forget that this even happens now. We still see protest votes by 30-year-olds, as recently as the 2008 American elections, which featured votes for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck on ballot papers. When you have fully grown adults doing this, some young people will also, to be sure, but it still doesn’t justify not giving them the vote because of some impetuous people.

A 16-year-old can get a job, get married and pay taxes but not be allowed to vote? Many more of the youths than two years ago now – why?  In order to fund themselves through university because of high tuition fees.

Essentially, young people now have the more of an incentive to vote than those of previous generations. Political decisions such as the rise in tuition fees and changes to education now concern youth more than ever before; although they do not have a say whether or not it would actually benefit them, they are the generation who has to live with the consequences of these. Is that democratic? I would ask this question to all the young people of today – if you knew you had a say in today’s politics, would you not vote to save your interests?

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  • lovely piece apparently reflecting the majority view of the 16-year-olds and putting the mindset of

    Excellent piece reflecting the majority of the 16-year-olds apparently even while putting the mindset of the ageing in proper perspective keep writing sriya akella

  • Hi best friend 🙂 fantastic article, a passionate yet measured response employing logical, relevant thought to create a very strong viewpoint – keep it up! Proud of you girl 😉

  • Susana

    Great piece Shriya – keep up the good work!

  • Guest

    I'm probably a little late but I'd just like to say that this is a well written article, especially for someone your age – keep up the good work and I look forward to reading more!

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