Give us the vote! Broaden voting rights

By Mayeesa Mitchell, Staff Writer

November 9, 2012

As the election drew to a close, the country was buzzing with political debates, predictions and advertisements. For many college freshmen, this was an exciting time, as they were finally given the opportunity to have their opinion heard through their votes. On High Point’s campus, the debates were showcased at The Pointe, different organizations assisted students in registering to vote, and professors were telling students about the importance of voting. “Are you registered to vote?” was a common question amongst freshmen and upperclassmen alike.

For me, the response was “No, I’m too young.” As someone who has followed the election closely since the beginning, it was hard to find any solace in the fact that no matter what I thought, my voice will not be heard because I’m not an “adult.”

In my opinion, 16 and 17-year-olds should be given the right to vote, and I’m not alone in that belief. Senator John Vasconcellos, a Democrat from California, has proposed a bill in his home state that would give this age group half of a vote and 14 to 15-year-olds a quarter of a vote.

The bill is part of a program called “Training Wheels for Citizenship” that would help to raise political awareness among teens and guide them through the process of voting.

“We have apprenticeships in medicine, journalism, plumbing, and car driving, why not politics?” asks state Sen. John Vasconcellos.

To some extent, I agree with Sen. Vasconcellos. Teens should be given an opportunity to grow into their citizenship and learn about the voting process before being thrust into a voting booth at 18. On the other hand, I disagree with giving teens partial votes. Are we partial citizens in this country? If we are going to have a say in political matters, why not entrust us wholly?

Many argue that the voting age shouldn’t be lowered because we aren’t adults. To that I ask, “What is an adult?” Is it someone who can sign a legal document or someone who is mature enough to make informed decisions? The simple truth is that most teens are mature. Legally, we are mature enough to drive, drop out of school without our parents’ permission or knowledge, have jobs, and get married with our parents’ permission all at the age of 16. If we can make these decisions why are we not allowed to have our full rights as citizens?

The truth is, some teens aren’t mature enough. I’m not denying that fact, but should the majority suffer because of the actions of the minority? There is no way that the federal government can decide what teen should be able to vote or should not be based on maturity levels.

Therefore, I propose that students should first be taught about the election process through a citizenship class – much like driver’s ed. – before they are eligible to register to vote. Secondly, I believe that parents should make the decision on whether or not their child should be voting. During the registration process, a 16 or 17-year-old would have to have their parents’ approval and signature for them to be allowed to vote.

I know that it is too late for me, but I understand how it feels to not really be heard—to be too young to officially do anything. It may take years, or maybe it won’t happen at all. Whatever the outcome, I stand behind my belief that the voting age should be lowered.