San Francisco could soon become the first major American city to lower its voting age to 16. If the measure is passed, it would mark a major step in a growing movement to extend voting rights to younger Americans.
▪ The changes aren’t limited to local races. More than a third of states allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if they will be 18 by the general election. The issue has also received some attention at the federal level.
▪ The process of establishing that standard nationally would be complex. A nationwide change to the minimum voting age for all elections would likely require a constitutional amendment.
▪ Supporters of the change believe that allowing 16-year-olds to vote would improve democracy for everyone, allow young people to participate in issues that are relevant to them, and positively encourage the establishment of voting patterns. Teenagers are mature enough to vote rationally and are treated as adults in a lot of important ways, such as having the right to drive and get married, they say.
▪ Opponents believe that keeping the vote at 18 is best to ensure we have an informed electorate, and that voting rights should be granted at the age when people become full citizens. In addition, teenagers haven’t matured enough to make sound voting choices, and aren’t civically engaged enough to vote. They also claim that lowering the voting age would likely favor Democrats.