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Topics Homepage> The voting age should be lowered to 16

The voting age should be lowered to 16

PRO (9 assertions)


Voting age- the age when you’re legally allowed to vote for a candidate for a public election in the U.S., but only after completing a test first.

Should be: what we would do in an ideal world


The plan

Assertion: We can make sure that no teens who are too immature and unaware of the candidates get to vote by setting up a test

Reasoning: By setting up a test, we will ensure that the “immature” 16 and 17 year olds actually know enough about the issues at hand to vote. This will disallow any immature people from casting a single vote and this point will completely refute any point that my opponents bring up about teenage immaturity. Obviously, if a standardized test administered by schools can stop any immature teenagers from voting, the turnout will be increased, and more adults will have a say.

End speech with this:

The fact that more 18 year olds actually go out to vote than do people from the ages of 45-55 just goes to show you that the younger audience in America is willing to step forward and express their political views. We can’t confine them forever. They’re going to vote anyway no matter what we do, so it would be better to get these children used to the government and voting systems as early as we can to spur the voting spirit in them.

And also, judge, I would like to point out to you that we, us students who aren’t even in high school, are debating complex issues in this very debate tournament, including this one. This just shows that our youth can develop opinions about things, and my opponents will prove this point by arguing against my side and developing their own opinions about the subject. This just shows you that today’s youth is mature and independent enough to make their own decisions. Thank you.

1. Assertion: Discrimination against mature 16 year olds is hypocritical and unjust.

Reasoning: Other groups of people even less educated and more unaware than teens are allowed to vote. These include mentally retarded people and adults that don’t even bother following politics but just vote to get a sticker. Most of these 16 year olds are educated enough to make smart decisions as to whom to elect for office, and most of them are smarter than other groups of people who are allowed to vote, including retarded people.

Evidence: The government mandate on education is that everyone needs to at least graduate from high school. The fact that these kids are in the middle of school and are in the middle of learning the most they’ll ever learn means that they are actually more knowledgeable when it comes to things than people whom are 35+ years old, who haven’t been to school in over 15 years. This proves our point that certain age groups are less educated than 16 year olds, and since these uneducated groups are allowed to vote, we need to allow 16 year olds to vote too.

2. Assertion: 16 year olds are mature enough to make important decisions such as voting.

Reasoning: Their bodies are fully adult, they have been educated for at least 10 years, and most of them have some experience of work as well as school. All this allows them to form political views and they should be allowed to put these across at election time. There is no magic difference between 16 and 18 - indeed, many 16 year old are more sensible than some 20 year olds.

Evidence: According to a study conducted by BBC News, there is not true significant difference between the brains of a 16 year old to that of a 18-20 year old. The brain, actually, does not fully form until the age of 25, and since we allow people who have brains are not fully formed (18 year olds) to vote, why should we bar others with the same exact brain makeup?

3. Assertion: It is important in a democracy to include as wide a range of opinion as possible.

Reasoning: The idea of representation by elected officials means that as many different views as possible should be heard at election time. Teenagers have their own interests and views that are currently not represented. This leads them to feel unvalued by society and to lose trust in the way the country is governed. Besides, don’t we want to have a wide range of views and opinions? By disallowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote, we are essentially cutting out a huge section of America that possesses different views from the rest of the population. There are 23 million young men and women with opinions and experience that we are stopping from voting. Of those, millions are educated, and these would be the ones voicing their opinions on problems and issues relating to them.

4. Assertion: There is a problem of apathy in many western countries with low turnouts at elections that can be slowed down with the addition of 16-17 year olds voting

Reasoning: Although young people are taught citizenship or civics at school, they don’t get a chance to put this knowledge into practice for several years. Is it surprising that they lose interest in public affairs during this time? Because national elections are usually only held every four years or so, many people have to wait until they are 20 or 21 before their first chance to cast an important vote.

Reasoning 2: A unique experiment was set up in Hampton, U.S. where youth, community leaders, and the heads of social service agencies were brought together by the mayor to select teens for a Hampton Youth Commission, which are charged with representing their peers in the city decision-making process. "The students are engaged. The culture of the town has changed. The turnout of young Hampton voters in the 2004 elections was 29 percent higher than the national average."

Evidence: The U.S. ranks 81st on the list of number of citizens who go out and vote. This is pathetic, concerning that we’re the first modern democracy. Since we have so many 16 and 17 year olds (roughly 20 million), we could raise this turnout and thus get a bigger and better sense of what our country needs and wants. Also, more 18 year olds actually go out to vote than do people from the ages of 45-55…May 27, 2010 NYT Article

Assertions #5, 6, 7, 8, 9

CON (7 assertions)

No framework

1. Assertion: 16 year olds are not mature enough to vote

Reasoning: The large majority still lives at home and goes to school. They may have adult bodies, but their minds are still those of children who have to be protected. By 18, they have finished high school and have legally completed all their educational requirements for their life, they have become much more independent, and they are able to make their own way in the world. Their political views are likely to be more thoughtful compared to 16 year olds, who may just copy their parents’ opinions or adopt silly ideas for the sake of rebellion. Worse, they may be uninformed and vote for the candidate not for his or her policies but the candidate’s give-aways.

Evidence: A research team headed by a the chief of brain imaging at the National Institute of Mental Health, found that in teenager brains, the part of the brain in teenagers where long-term consequences spring to consciousness is not fully mature. Proof of their immaturity can also be found in their preference for single-issue campaigns over the complexity of a political party. It takes life experience to understand the need for political parties and young people simply don't have this. Are young people really that interested in politics? Take Iraq, for example. Despite nearly constant news coverage since the war there became heated in 2003, 63 percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 failed to correctly locate the country on a map of the Middle East. Seventy percent could not find Iran or Israel. Think of that. If a 16 year old goes into a voting booth voting to have a trade embargo against China and 1) they don’t even know what an embargo is and 2) they don’t even know where China is, those many votes will be extremely detrimental to our country because they lack both reason behind their votes and knowledge.

2. Assertion: Not everyone needs to vote on issues that affect them

Reasoning: Governments do things which affect every age group but that does not mean everyone deserves the vote. Should 12 year olds get the vote because school policies affect them? Should toddlers get the vote because health services affect them? No - we trust parents to cast votes after thinking about the interests of their families. And there are other ways for young people to have a say - they can write to elected representatives and newspapers, sign petitions, speak at public meetings, and join youth parliaments. It’s not like we’re shutting these kids out of the political world forever. Come 2 years time, they’ll get to vote.

Evidence: Common sense

3. Assertion: 18 is the best age to have as a minimum for people to vote

Reasoning: When you’re 18, a lot of things happen to you. First, you officially become a U.S. citizen. This is also the age when you get your driver’s license officially, are allowed to take any job you want, and have finished all required education by the U.S. government and can go to college. Now, what about 16 and 17 year olds? Well, they can practice driving under a licensed supervisor, can practice having a job as long as it isn’t one of the 55 job types not permitted by the Federal Youth Employment Laws, and they can practice taking college exams or practice completing school. Obviously, in those 2 years gap between 18 year olds and 16 year olds, much maturity and experience is put upon the teenagers, which without, they would be too irresponsible to vote or do most of the things that we legally allow 18 year olds to do.

Evidence: The U.S. Federal Youth Laws. These facts clearly show that 16 year olds are obviously too immature to handle the responsibilities that we give to 18 year olds.

4. Assertion: Having a broad range of opinion at elections has to be balanced against having responsible voters

Reasoning: If we allow 16 year olds to vote, there’s obviously going to be an increase in turnout. However, that can also be a two-sided sword, and in this case, allowing 16 year olds to cast votes will clearly harm our country. This is because these children are not old enough to be able to develop their own political views about the world. Most of their votes will be cast without reason and will therefore harm the good of the country.

Evidence: According to a study conducted by, out of 2400 teenagers aged 14-16, over 97% of these children had the same political views as their parents. Of these, sadly, 43% didn’t even know the first thing about the party that their parents, and they, represented. These are children, what would you expect? What the Pro is expecting is a teenager with fully formed ideas and political views that take years to develop. This is medically and practically impossible.

Assertions #5, 6, 7