Voting rights should be extended to 16 year olds

By: Abby Ramirez

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Since the beginning of our democratic system of government, there have always been restrictions on who is allowed to exercise their right to vote. Initially, this right was limited to only white, property owning men, thus forcing other groups to fight in order to have a say in the election of our officials. Whether it be women through the suffrage movement or African Americans through their fight for Civil Rights, Americans all throughout history have pushed to obtain their right to vote in our democracy.

Today is no different. In the last decade, teenagers in America have endured horrible tragedy and marginalization, and have had no way to effectively take action. As politicians and activists squabble over reforms, teens are forced to patiently wait and trust that adults are doing what is best for them, and have seen almost no changes made in their favor. For this reason, sixteen year olds should have the right to vote, as the older generations can no longer accurately speak and act on our behalf. 

In the same way that as white men chose the fate of women and African Americans, teenagers’ opinions have been drowned out by adults who believe they know what is best for us. In a way, they are not wrong, for wisdom does come with age; there is no denying that. 

However, teenagers are not clueless either. In high school classes, 16 and 17 year olds learn about America’s government and civic systems, and have been challenged by their teachers to form their own opinions on political subjects, such as medicare, immigration, and abortion rights. 

For some, these opinions have become very unique, as they have endured tragedies that no one should have to experience. In the wake of school shootings, teens, such as those at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, have pleaded with adults to make changes in our gun control policies, yet no real change has happened. 16 year old girls in states like Alabama and Georgia have pleaded to keep abortions legal, yet no real change has happened.

As many of us have learned, the Declaration of Independence states that once the government can no longer protect people’s unalienable rights, they must make a change. Lives have been taken, happiness has faded, and it is now time that we make change in the country. 

By giving 16 year olds the right to vote, we are allowing them to use the voice they have developed in a positive way towards making changes that will benefit kids for generations to come. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, voter turnout from voters ages 18 to 19 has been the lowest of any group since 1980. However, the recent political climate gives us reason to believe that that statistic will change in the upcoming elections. 

Over the last four years, politics has come to the forefront of all news stories and the recent controversies that were once overlooked by the younger generations have become more apparent than ever. As teenagers are beginning to engage themselves in the happenings of America, and build up the same anger, happiness, or fear as adults, but have no way to effectively channel it. So, once they turn 18, one could assume that these larger numbers of the younger generations would seek to act on those feelings through voting. 

However, this anticipation would not be necessary if 16 year olds were given the right to vote. Teens can no longer stand by and trust that the older generation will act in favor of the younger generations. Our voices must be heard; our lives must be protected. By giving us the right to vote, we can begin to make the change we want to see happen in America to not only protect our rights as American citizens, but also as human beings.

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