FOR Giving 16-Year-Olds the Vote

AGAINST Giving 16-Year-Olds the Vote

1. We already treat 16-year-olds as adults

18 signifies legal adulthood in our minds. However, we already treat our 16-year-olds as adults. At 16, you can take on a full-time job in the EU, which means you have to pay taxes on your income. Unfortunately, you may be 22 before exercising your democratic vote to decide what should happen with your tax money, as some parliaments are voted on once every 5 years. At 16, you are allowed to get married in some, and allowed to have sex in all EU member states. Therefore, the state deems you ready to become a parent. If you get to create a new life, why shouldn’t you be able to vote on your own future and the future of your country

1. Exceptions serve to confirm the rule

At 16, you are simply not an adult. We have to draw the line somewhere, and just because sensible exceptions exist, we should not discard the whole notion of maturity at 18. In the EU, you must be 18 years old to join the military, sign a mortgage, or get a credit card. Our brains are quite literally not fully developed, which is why we ban alcohol consumption under 18 in most states. All exceptions, including getting married, require parental consent or a petition to emancipate in front of a court. If you need a judge to decide your maturity at 16, why should you just be allowed to vote?

2. Voting is a right

Any attempt to suppress the youth vote runs against our democratic ideals in which voting is a right, and voting access must be expanded to people in the margins. No one advocates for taking away an older person’s right to vote based on suspicion of cognitive decline. Because many people will be fully conscious and mentally sharp until their death, it is unjust and impractical to take away the right to vote for an entire set of the population. Voting has a lasting impact. The political decisions made today will likely affect a 16-year-old for longer than a 60-year-old. And with regards to climate change, the effects of these decisions may be irreversible in some years. If a young person cares about politics and wants to vote in an election, that should be celebrated.

2. Voting is a privilege

Voting is the single most meaningful act in a democracy. We decide the future of entire nations or alliances, more often than not, by margins of less than a percentage point. An act of such magnitude demands calm and composure from the voters. Traits that adolescents, statistically, possess less of. Adolescents are prone to engage in risky behaviour and less likely to think about the consequences of their actions. Voting requires foresight and experience, the ability to understand peoples’ intentions and motivation, and interpersonal competencies that are not a given. Voting is a privilege that should be exercised by mature minds.

3. Young people are educated enough

Young people can be political. Young people can give speeches, hold rallies and even stand up to political debates with older people. At 16, the formative years of one’s personality are essentially behind them. 16-year-olds have opinions and ideals, and are routinely seen at protests, most prominently in the form of Fridays for Future activists. Compulsory education ends at 16 in most EU member states. We decide to have equipped our youth with enough knowledge to participate in society and the labour market at 16 and should, therefore, allow them to vote.

3. Young people lack real-life experience

An uninformed vote can have dire consequences for society, similarly to an inexperienced driver. Life experience is not and cannot be taught in schools, it comes naturally to all of us in time. Without enough time to gather life experience, a 16-year-old lacks a key requirement to taking part in our society. We should carefully introduce our youth to democracy. We should let them protest, have them demonstrate their political will, and let them get used to politics for some time before simply endowing them with the privilege to vote.

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Theresa Thompson