Teenagers Should Vote in Local Elections

By Joseph Kratz, Editor-in-Chief

We are living in a period of historic politics. The President of the United States is under investigation by a Special Counsel, the government just experienced its longest partial shutdown ever, and the rhetorical polarization of the political spectrum could not be any clearer. Nonetheless, this period of political uncertainty has led to a resurgence in grassroot political movements.

The uncertainty has forced people, worried about their country, to take matters into their own hands. Organizations like Moms Demand Action and the March for Our Lives were created to pressure political actors to address gun violence. Even though the birth of political movements are common when opposing parties are in power, these past years have seen the growth of non-partisan and single-issue groups.

This is to say that American political engagement is at an all-time high. According to the BBC, the last midterm elections saw some of the highest voter turnout in years, a sure sign of an energized electorate. Unfortunately, adolescents energized by the ability to engage in marches and protests are left out of the decision making that will decide the future of their country and world.

Teenagers have to pay taxes on the income they earn, teenagers have to go to court to get their driver’s licenses, and teenagers are uniquely affected by decisions made by the school board, yet teenagers have no say in who is representing their interests in their local government. Exemplifying the idea of “taxations without representation,” granting citizens, older than 16, suffrage would greatly increase the electoral base, making local government much more indicative of their constituency.

In 2013, per the Washington Post, the City of Takoma Park, Maryland lowered the voting age for their elections to 16. Legislation has been introduced across the country, to varying degrees of success, to lower the voting age for local and city elections.

Teenagers are not as naive as stereotypes would have you believe, and worries about ignorance of the election could, and should, be addressed through education and outreach. Lowering the voting age in local elections would also foster civic engagement and pride because teenagers would be able to own the decisions that they make, and the notion that you are a responsible, contributing member of society is important for teenager.

In our age of political engagement, it is important that we give a motivated, educated, and enthusiastic population the ability to vote in local elections.