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OP-ED | To Improve Democracy, Lower the Voting Age

by | Aug 28, 2015 8:00am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Analysis, Congress, Election Policy, Opinion, Millennial Voices, White House

Why is our political system so shortsighted? On so many issues, from global warming to fiscal responsibility, our government seems focused on short-term benefits, while it ignores long-term consequences. Our infrastructure is falling apart, our schools are underfunded, and all the while special interests make out like bandits. Why?

One reason among many is the way our electorate is dominated by the elderly. I love my grandparents, don’t get me wrong, but for self-evident reasons their generation is pretty focused on the short term. And since Americans 45 and older, who are less than 40 percent of the overall population, make up more than half of the electorate, it’s those short-term issues that get the most political attention. Most people who vote today will be long gone by the time the adverse impacts of their short-term agenda are felt.

Part of the issue is something we hear all the time: “Young people don’t vote.” And that’s true. Most of the people I went to high school with are either not registered to vote, or are registered but didn’t bother to actually cast a ballot. That’s a big problem, and it’s on us to solve it.

But to some extent, it seems as though our laws are designed to discourage young people from voting. If you had to pick the worst possible time in a person’s life for them to begin voting, age 18 might be it. Huge numbers of young people find themselves away from home for their first election, and this is a contributing factor to low turnout rates among young voters. College students either need to go through a fairly arduous process to cast an absentee ballot, or change their residency to the town their college is in — a place they may know almost nothing about.

Fortunately, there is a solution: lower the voting age. If people start voting while they’re still in high school, teachers and parents can help encourage students to vote. They would also be voting in a town they know well, and feel invested in. And since voting has been shown to be a habitual behavior, once young people start voting, they’re likely to continue. Lowering the voting age could mean higher turnout rates for the entire electorate.

The most common argument against lowering the voting age is that young people aren’t capable of casting “good” or “informed” votes. But this is both wrong and irrelevant. High school students, who are required to take classes in history and government, are often more informed than older voters. And even if some young people aren’t well-informed, we allow everyone to vote, even the half of Republicans who think President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Simply put, this is America — everyone gets to vote, even the uninformed.

Lowering the voting age isn’t radical; in fact, Connecticut has expanded voting rights for young people before. In 2008, we amended our state constitution to lower the voting age in primaries to 17, provided the voter would be 18 by the general election. There’s no reason we couldn’t do it again, and expand voting rights to all people 16 and older. We wouldn’t be the first: 16- and 17-year-olds can already vote in Takoma Park, MD and Hyattsville, MD. Internationally, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua all have a voting age of 16, and Scotland allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in last year’s independence referendum. I challenge our state legislators to take up this important issue, and give a voice to young people in Connecticut. We can place a higher priority on the future by enfranchising those destined to live in it.

Kiernan Majerus-Collins, 20, is a student at Bates College and a Democratic Town Committee member from West Hartford. He can be reached on Facebook

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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(33) Archived Comments

posted by: OMG03 | August 28, 2015  12:57pm

Move to Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua then.  This is simply a democratic sales pitch to get more votes from yet another source—children.

posted by: Salmo | August 28, 2015  4:20pm

Sonny, my advice to you is that you need slog through life a bit longer before you start passing judgement on the “elderly”. You may be good with a quip and good ol’ statistics but you need to get your nose bloodied a few more times and get your hands a bit more grimy before you start making comments about older people. As far as young people voting how much younger do you want? Beyonce’ might be a great entertainer but I don’t think I want her representing me!

posted by: SocialButterfly | August 28, 2015  6:15pm

Who’s Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

posted by: CitizenCT | August 29, 2015  6:24am

Someday the writer will be older and wiser and realize grand parents vote to make a better life for their children and grand children.

posted by: Diogenese | August 29, 2015  1:34pm

We should probably be raising the voting age - if you can’t go into a bar you have no business going into a voting booth.

posted by: UpsideDown | August 29, 2015  4:45pm

if you chose the title of this Op-Ed piece, you should know in this country we are a representative republic, not a democracy and that alone I would say raise the voting age to 21.

posted by: toni from whart | August 30, 2015  7:09am

WOW! Imagine someone like my 17 year old, who knows almost nothing, yet even worse, doesn’t WANT to learn about candidates, being responsible to elect our leaders. Asking teens to vote is like asking for a trainwreck. or….is that what you want?— Even more chaos in the White House?

posted by: art vandelay | August 31, 2015  7:38am

art vandelay

@CitizenCT,
Mark my word. In a few short years, this writer will commence a career in politics. The Governor’s chair is not out of the realms of possibilities.  He certainly posses the proper qualifications, an extreme progressive , a Democrat, an above all a loyal party member.

posted by: Greg | August 31, 2015  8:44am

” We can place a higher priority on the future by enfranchising those destined to live in it.”

Why do we think youngsters are disenfranchised? 

Could it be the corrupt, two-party system that dominates every aspect of American political life?

The same two parties who trade political office(s) back and forth at every level while nearly everyone agrees the country is incrementally worse off after each next administration?

The same two parties who pander to the rich for money? How many D’s and R’s head to Greenwich for their fundraising dinners at $25k/plate during election seasons?

The same two parties who go on military adventures of every sort overseas, participating in all manner of “regime change” when we lofty Americans deem fit and then leaving the mess for the next guy to deal with, the cycle continuing in perpetuity?

The same two parties who engage in the same behavior, albeit of different branding: Democrats (like our author) claiming to be for the little guy, the poor, the middle class!, but end up pandering to the rich and corporate interests all the same.  The Republicans claiming to be for small government and all that jazz, but expanding the government during their tenure all the same…

Do we see a pattern here?

And to some comments here of older folk being wiser and better at policy: Do we not agree all the problems we have today are driven primarily by those same older folks who have dominated policymaking for decades, and now the much ballyhooed “millennials” have to live with and pick up the tab for decades of spending into excess and all that jazz, yes?

Sadly, while the grey hairs leech off of social security and yell “Git yer government hands off muh Medicare!”, we lowly millennials will be stuck paying the bill for our parents and grandparents, stuck paying off the $18T national debt from all manner of Baby Boomer excess, and deal with this crappy economy at the same time. 

Perhaps Salmo and Citizen CT can explain how those benevolent older folks have made such a great society for we kiddos these days. Baby Boomers and their immediate forebears drove policy for the past 30 years of endless wars, two giant economic bubbles, and an exponential expansion of entitlements for themselves and yet they’ll have the nerve to lecture kids these days about how they made it so great.

Kiernan nailed that piece of it, albeit in a nice way.

posted by: Apolitical_CT_Lawyer | August 31, 2015  1:26pm

Why stop at 16 year olds Mr. Collins Majerus?  If lettting uninformed, immature 16 year olds vote is an improvement on democracy why stop there? Imagine how much better your democracy will be if you let 7 & 8 year olds vote too.  They learn about US history and current events too.  What the heck, why not 5 & 6 years olds?  And what about animals?  Those poor souls have no vote.  Hasn’t Cecil the Lion taught us the importance of giving these creatures a democratic voice?  Imagine how great our democracy will be then?
How about the unborn?  Is it too much to ask for the unborn to have a right to vote?  Don’t you think they want to be heard on the issue of abortion?  Are they any more uninformed that the majority of today’s electorate?

posted by: SocialButterfly | August 31, 2015  2:35pm

@Greg:  Our benevolent old folks including survivors fought for this country in World War II, the Korean and Viet Nam Wars to keep our country free. Don’t knock the old folks. Your literary efforts signify that you cannot give the old-timers the respect they deserve while they are still around. Yet you won’t blame our problems on politicians like Pres. Barack Obama who never served our country other being elected as Commander in Chief and has currently fostered a bad peace plan with Iran, the world’s leader in promoting terrorism.

posted by: SocialButterfly | August 31, 2015  4:13pm

@Apolitical_CT_Lawyer:  You do get carried away with your rhetoric.

posted by: oldtimer | August 31, 2015  5:52pm

Apolitical CT Lawyer… excellent post!

posted by: art vandelay | August 31, 2015  6:09pm

art vandelay

If one wants to witness how disenfranchised todays youth are regarding the democratic process, watch a “Water’s World” segment on Bill O’Reilly.  The youth Mr. Waters interviews in Times Square could never pass a citizenship test let alone identify a picture of the Vice President.  Our youth today are the lowest of the low information voter. Mr. Collins wants to give the vote?  I think not.

posted by: kiernanmc | August 31, 2015  6:58pm

kiernanmc

@art vandelay Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I’m not focused on running for anything at the moment.

@OMG03 Thanks but no thanks. I like the United States just fine, and am only interested in seeing our country get better. If young people tend to vote Democratic, it’s because the Republican Party has the foreign policy of the 1980s, the social policy of the 1950s, and the economic policy of the 1920s.

@Salmo Beyonce is old enough to vote. But beyond that, “you’re too young” is not an argument. If you disagree with my piece on merit, I’d be happy to hear your counterarguments.

@Diogenese Or we could lower the drinking age to be more in line with the rest of the developed world.

@toni from whart If your 17-year-old doesn’t know anything about politics, I doubt he or she will choose to vote. My 17-year-old sister, on the other hand, would be a far more informed voter than most. It all depends on the person in question, not how old they are.

@Greg You’ve got the right idea, although I think there are a few more differences between Democrats and Republicans than you would care to admit.

@Apolitical_CT_Lawyer Let’s start with 16 and 17-year-olds and see how it goes.

posted by: OMG03 | September 1, 2015  8:05am

@kiernanmc- I see that you’ve had plenty of the Kool-Aid.  Not surprising since democratic rhetoric is drilled into our kids heads at school.  Students who chose to stand up for republican values in school are often ostracized.  Not sure how any democrat can actually be proud of the agenda and policies that are ruining this country.  Good for you for standing by your failing party, with only your fellow democrats to blame.  Good luck with that.

posted by: Greg | September 1, 2015  3:56pm

@ SB:  Spoken like a true statist. All worship the old men in Congress and the last few Administrations for sending our young folks to war for no good reason and then shafting them on their VA benefits. 

Seems we have the money to pay to go to war, but not to fully compensate and take care of those brave men and women who fight and then need support afterwards.

After all, good Senators like John McCain hasn’t seen a war he didn’t like.  Funny how he, as a POW and Vietnam Vet, can’t seem to push more money to the VA. 

Perhaps you wouldn’t be so dismissive of young folk’s concerns if you had 30 more years in the work force attempting to pay the social security, medicare, and title 19 of those benevolent Baby Boomers who will soon be on the government dole for their existence going forward.  Perhaps you’d feel differently if the programs the Baby Boomers and otherwise would have been paid for in full by their tax dollars instead of having future generations paying it for them by a system designed for future benefit paid for by the young.

Perhaps you’d have more respect for the young by not saddling us with $18T of debt for your entitlements that will ultimately be paid by me, Kiernan, and our grandchildren…unless of course we elect Trump and he decides to Default.

Frankly, sir, we young folks don’t owe the old timers anything.  You, Salmo, and others want to argue you left our country in such a great state of affiars for young people, yet it’s the opposite.  Go ahead and collect your social security, medicare, and Title 19, the rest of us will pay for it out of our hard earned incomes in multiples of what you and others have paid into the system (which is the definition of Socialist, Social Butterfly).  Then you can lecture the rest of us how we should be grateful for this awful economy of consecutive bubbles, expensive military adventures across the globe that has nothing to do with national security, subsidies for every damn industry on the contintinent,  and crushing national debt and unfunded liabilities while you’re on the government dole in your elder years.

Yes, we young Millennial’s should be grateful for this great economy you, Obama, George W Bush, and the last 30 years of congresscritters have left us.  We shoudl be proud to inherit the underfundedness of all these entitlement programs i’m sure you’ll be collecting from in short order. 

Again, spoken like a true statist who wants to defend the entitlements paid for by the young. 

 

.

posted by: Greg | September 1, 2015  4:17pm

@ Kiernan:

More difference than I’d like to admit?

- Obamacare passed on the grounds of “we need to pass the bill before we can read what’s in it” which is quite contrary to how we learned how bills become law in high school civics class
- The use of E-Cert to pass the 2013 Gun Law in the odd absence of any emergency in the state other than the POTUS arrival a week later
- Obama staunchly defendeing NSA metadata and spying on American citizens, and nearly had congressional mutiny on the issue of killing american citizens with drones without due process
- Sen Feinstein’s feigned outrage against the CIA spying on her but not the rest of the populace…seems she is above the law
- Jawboning Citizens United but pushing no legislation overturning it or any sort of campaign finance reform
- Noncompliance with the CT Elections Enforcement commission’s request for documents and taking them to court over Malloy’s use of the Federal account paid into by state contractors.
- The frequent pandering to the rich for campaign money both here in CT and elsewhere
-Bronin’s Hartford Mayoral campaign as a carpetbagging white boy from Greenwich who is using a major, urban city as a springboard to bigger political office, anointed and endorsed by your precious Democratic party machine.
- Obama and others refusal to take Wall St money for their own campaigns while jawboning against Wall St interests while doing nothing in the legislative or regulatory apparatus to end regulatory capture.
- The constant refusal of the Democrats to hold the Federal Reserve accountable for the massive wealth transfer to the rich and the banks at the expense of savers and the middle class.
- The constant support of subsidies for (insert industry here) inclusive of farms, oil, etc etc etc
- The refusal to end congressional insider trading that oddly makes congresscritters extremely wealthy after a few terms in office, while only drawing a congressional salary.
- Not ending the political-lobbying revolving door which allows those same congresscritters and administration hacks to make 7 figures once they leave office.

Shall I go on?

I give the Republicans credit for at least not hiding the fact they are corporatists and crony capitalists…they’re honest on that front and don’t hide it.

Your party, on the other hand, likes to talk a big game about defending the poor and middle class but play the same exact games and benefit highly from it.  The democratic party encourages a double standard for insiders at the expense of the people they vow to represent. 

Perhaps you’d like to comment on the Bronin campaign in Hartford and defend the Democratic Party Machine playing games with all those poor, urban minorities you so dearly cherish as party of your voter base…

posted by: SocialButterfly | September 2, 2015  6:31am

#Greg: Who made you the official architect of “the blame game?”  Keep rambling on but it will get you NOWHERE.

posted by: GBear423 | September 2, 2015  8:41am

GBear423

Kudos to Greg on calling the political parties and their lemmings out on their numerous hypocrisies.

Although on the subject of the boomers and gen x being responsible for the poor state of affairs for the poor spoiled millenials, I must depart from the greg fan base… 

Suck it up buttercup, you and Obama inherited this mess.  You precious youngsters voted Obama into office, you kids rejected fiscal responsibility in lieu of skin color.  So get some cheese with that whine, reflect a little on your own responsibility to this Country, and maybe vote, lobby, contribute to the candidates that will most closely represent your ideals on how to improve the USA and Connecticut.

To the author, it is true that you have various maturity levels in adolescents and young people, but as a society we have to make a cut off that represents the majority.  For good or ill we draw the line at 18.  I agree with that number as it is the age of Military Service, and so if a citizen is willing to fight for their country, they should have the opportunity to vote who leads it.  Those younger have no skin in the game, they are dependents and have no responsibilities to society as an age group/demographic.

posted by: Greg | September 2, 2015  9:45am

@SB: Can you actually debate the current status of the economy especially for the 18-35 age crowd or would you like to flippantly dismiss my concerns?

Yes, I’m real thankful to the Baby Boomers for leaving me and my cohorts with massive bills for a laundry list of underfunded social programs.

Thanks a lot.

posted by: RicB | September 2, 2015  10:06am

First of all, it’s probably good that most young people (16 to 21)do not vote. Do you really want a young male that listens to Slayer or Behemoth and other such music,thinks of sex 24/7 and has no idea what it’s really like to live and work in the real world? Someone who is still dependent on Mommy,Daddy etc,to vote? I think not, there is a reason that there are age restrictions (too young) for such things as drinking smoking driving and so on. Most young people are not responsible enough to engage in these types of Adult practices and voting is one of them.

posted by: Greg | September 2, 2015  12:10pm

@Gbear: Please stop acting like all of the problems in this country started on 1/20/09, and please don’t mistake my ranting for some defense of Obama’s tenure either. 

Perhaps you forget we had 8 years of G.W. Bush prior to the Messiah coming into office and where was your precious “fiscal responsibility” then? And he had 6 years of a Republican congress to boot.
I don’t recall fiscal responsibility out of that group.  What did Dick Cheney say…“Deficits don’t matter?”

Sums up the partisan argument from the GOP that they’re the party of fiscal responsibility: Deficits don’t matter.  GWB never ran a surplus nor cut any piece of government.  Quite the opposite, in fact.

So unless you, GBear, voted for Ron Paul in the GOP primaries and/or Gary Johnson in the general election please don’t feel you have the moral standing to lecture anyone on their voting habits on the basis of fiscal policy.

And if you did, kudos to you, perhaps we agree on something.

posted by: SocialButterfly | September 2, 2015  2:25pm

@Greg: Who are the most irresponsible voters?  People under 25 lead the pack. Check the automobile insurance actuary statistics for collaboration. Proven documented statistics do not lie but you have interjected your personal feelings in dispute which really do not hold any water. You have been “unable to stretch the truth.”

posted by: ACR | September 2, 2015  3:01pm

ACR

”.. but I’m not focused on running for anything at the moment.”

Bull.
You’re following the Chris Murphy model a little too perfectly for any informed voter to buy that nonsense.

posted by: Greg | September 2, 2015  5:03pm

@Rickb:
“Do you really want a young male that listens to Slayer or Behemoth and other such music,thinks of sex 24/7…”

Aside from Slayer being an 80’s metal band, likely listened to by folks in their 40’s now…

How is that different from any other generation of the past 70 years post WW2? Please don’t act like Gen X, The Baby Boomers, et al didn’t go running around listening to music and thinking about sex at 16, and likely moreso given those dirty hippies of the 60’s and 70’s…you know…the Sexual Revolution and all…And they were the upstanding members of society in their teen years, well informed on public policy?  Really? Those same folks whose fantastic skills raised we Millennial to be useless, overprotected brats, yes?

Yes, good job Baby Boomer Parents!

BTW those same kiddos who spent their formative years in the 60’s and 70’s are now running the country, also the entire planet.  So good job on that one, once again, leaving we lazy Millennial with crushing debt of every sort who will likely never see their Social Security money returned to them.

Remember folks, be nice to your kids because they get to pick your nursing home when you get old.  On Title 19 btw.

posted by: kiernanmc | September 2, 2015  10:07pm

kiernanmc

@ACR What Chris Murphy model?

posted by: ACR | September 2, 2015  10:39pm

ACR

Kiernan Majerus-Collins asks:

What Chris Murphy model?

Find a powerful union guy like Dave Pudlin.

Invent reasons your opponent didn’t even want to run.
ie:”...the poor guy’s wife’s had a breakdown and is up at the institute all due to their son having cancer…..”

Praise opponent endlessly:
“..I only hope I can serve half as efficiently as [incumbent name]

Attract scads of college age volunteers, don’t worry about treating them right as you can get new ones next cycle.

Promise every special interest group whatever it is they want.

posted by: GBear423 | September 3, 2015  9:05am

GBear423

@Greg-  I defended no republican Presidency, in fact the last Republican is the reason why we have the current President. “W” destroyed the brand, on fiscal stewardship Bush 43 was an epic fail. No debate there.

I did not lecture, just said stop whining. I then suggested you do something productive. Sorry, your generation helped compound the problem.  You have to understand if you are going to represent them with your tantrum, then accept that the majority of your demographic are buying democrat policies, which will continue to saddle YOUR generation with more debt.

Hug a millennial. you guys are all in it together, I will be checking out when it gets really bad.  ;O)

posted by: oldtimer | September 3, 2015  10:37am

Let’s look at these young people whom you want to bestow voting rights upon… At 16 or 17 their biggest concern typically is getting their driver’s license. To do so, they must show competency in operating a motor vehicle as well as passing a written test about the rules of the road. Therefore, if you want these kids to vote, they should first pass a competency test… A civics test as well as an American and world history test. And this isn’t a novel idea, it’s what is done for immigrants who wish to become citizens. At least that’s how it was done until Obama refused to uphold the law he swore to uphold.

posted by: Greg | September 3, 2015  12:22pm

@Oldtimer- I agree with testing.  How about we give that same test to all those AARP members who claim to be so well versed in civics and American History and see how well they do.

They can also retake their drivers test with the youngsters while they’re at it!  Don’t pass, drivers license revoked! Can’t have drivers with poor reflexes and bad eyesight and hearing on the roads…

Lets see how well that goes with the old grey haired crowd.

posted by: oldtimer | September 3, 2015  9:02pm

Greg… I have no problem with that! No one should be driving or voting without showing competency.

posted by: art vandelay | September 4, 2015  10:15am

art vandelay

@Greg/Old-Timer,
I believe in some states senior citizens are required to take drivers tests.  As far as tests to vote, it will never happen.  In Connecticut the new drivers licenses for illegals look exactly like regular licenses. Polling officials especially in urban areas are going to be hard pressed to tell the difference. As a result, many illegals will be voting.  It’s EXACTLY what the progressive/socialist Democrats wanted when they voted to allow illegals drivers licenses.

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