Too young to rent? You are too young to vote.

Changing the Constitution requires overwhelming public and political support. Any proposed amendment must pass by a two-thirds majority in each house of Congress and then be approved by three-fourths of the state legislatures. This overwhelming support existed the last time the voting age was lowered. In fact, as early as 1953, the Gallup poll found that public approval for giving 18-year-olds the vote had climbed to 63%; President Dwight Eisenhower approved the change in his 1954 State of the Union Address. Most Americans accepted the argument that if young men between the ages of 18 and 21 were old enough to be drafted and sent to war, they were old enough to be given the vote. The 26th Amendment was approved by Congress on March 23, 1971, and within 3.5 months it was confirmed by the necessary 38 states – the fastest ratification of a constitutional amendment in US history. United States.

In contrast, there is little public support for extending the franchise to sophomore high school students.

As a newly elected member of Congress in 2019, Pressley’s first legislative proposal was an amendment to lower the voting age for the 16-party federal election. The Democratic-led House rejected the amendment, 126-305. According to a national survey Hill-HarrisX Poll published in May 2019, “75% of registered voters opposed 17-year-olds participating in elections [and] 84% opposed 16-year-olds voting. This sentiment crosses party lines. Large majorities of Democratic, Republican and independent respondents are against allowing teenagers under the age of 18 to vote.

So it’s safe to say that the latest proposal isn’t going anywhere. Still, it’s important to understand why lowering the voting age further is a bad idea.

Those who support voting rights for 16 and 17 year olds argue that since children of this age can work, pay taxes and get a driver’s license, it is not fair to exclude them from the voting booth. here’s how Moulton put it in 2020:

“Americans place great trust in 16-year-olds. We let them drive, hire them in our companies and make them pay taxes. Moreover, he wrote, “we know that voting at an early age helps foster civic habits for life.”

Ixchel Arista (center) fought with other teenage activists to lower the voting age in Oakland, California. But Alameda County, which runs the city’s elections, never implemented the measures.Melina Mara/The Washington Post

Pressley goes even further. In a statement 2021, she argued that a 16 or 17 year old was qualified to vote because of the “wisdom and maturity” that comes from living in a time of “challenges”, “difficulties” and “threats unique. Young people, Pressley said, have the right “to have a say in our federal elections and the policies that impact their lives today and will shape the nation in their lifetime.”

Such flimsy assertions do not stand up to scrutiny.

Americans don’t trust 16-year-olds very much. Certainly, some children of this age have a job, some even contribute to the expenses of their family. But the vast majority of teenagers do not work, and few work full-time. Rare is the 16 or 17 year old who pays the grocery, rent or utility bill.

Yes, children this age can legally drive, and yes, teenagers pay taxes. But no one under the age of 18 (and in some cases, 21) can legally drink alcohol or buy tobacco or marijuana. They may not buy guns or ammunition. They may not to marry or adopt a child. They can’t join the military, buy a lottery ticket, book a hotel room or an Airbnb stay, apply for a home loan, rent an apartment, file a complaint, get a credit cardwork in a bar or make a will.

In almost all areas of life, society has established 18 as the age of majority because, broadly speaking, that is the age of maturity. Or at least the age of the minimum level of maturity to be entrusted with important decisions. It is well established that adult and adolescent brains work differently. The prefrontal cortex – the region of the brain that governs decision-making, long-term thinking, and rational judgment – isn’t fully developed until your mid-twenties. Behavior and reactions in adolescents are rather controlled by the amygdalathe most emotionally driven, impulsive and primitive part of the brain.

If Moulton, Pressley and their colleagues are serious about asserting that 16-year-olds are mature enough to vote, they must show why the scientific consensus on adolescent immaturity is wrong. And to be consistent, they should also push to lower the legal minimum age for any other activity to 16.

As for the idea that “voting at an early age helps to encourage civic habits for life”, this too is not supported by evidence.

The same claim was made when the 26th Amendment was passed. Lowering the voting age to 18, Senator Ted Kennedy said“will bring America’s youth into the mainstream of our political process” and “we will win a group of enthusiastic, sensitive, idealistic and vigorous new voters.”

This does not happen. Newly enfranchised 18- to 20-year-olds quickly became the least engaged cohort of voters. In every election, the youngest voters invariably participate at a lower rate than all the others. There was considerable hype on the “high” turnout of young voters in the midterm elections last November, but the data actually confirmed the long-standing trend: Only 27% of voters under 30 bothered to vote. (On the other hand, they were the voters most likely to vote for the Democratic candidates. A cynic could be forgiven for wondering if this is why Democrats like Pressley and his co-sponsors are so eager to lower even further voting age.)

Low turnout rates among young voters should come as no surprise. Interest in government and politics tends to increase as adulthood concerns increase. Americans who have full-time jobs, who have to pay a mortgage, who raise a family, who file annual tax returns, who struggle with health care premiums are more likely to be interested in how they are governed than those who do not. t. For perfectly understandable reasons, teens are likely to worry more about school, social media, and relationships with other teens than candidates, legislation, and public policy.

If we don’t trust 16-year-olds to to be a member of a jury or sign a contract, we certainly shouldn’t expect them to vote thoughtfully for presidents, governors, and members of Congress. In the eyes of society, adulthood begins at 18 years old. Voting should start then as well.

Jeff Jacoby can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jeff_jacoby.

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