Why can't I vote?

March 13, 2007|by FEDORA COPLEY

Turning 18 is exciting and new. You get to buy things that were illegal before, and you also get to vote. Now that you are a mature adult, ready to express your opinion, you can tell your state and country what is important to you.

But wait a minute. I hear mature opinions discussed all the time in my ninth-grade classes. Why can't 14- and 15-year-olds vote?

I brought this up to my dad. It was obvious to me that there are 15-year-olds out there who are ready and willing to vote. So why is the voting age 18?

It seems like teens who understand government and have a grip on issues going on in our country are equally as capable if not more so than many adults. Anyway, a lot of adults who can vote choose not to. If they don't have enough motivation to vote, why should they care if others (who might be younger) cast their ballot and shape the government?


Teens are important to America's future. In high school, kids are really getting a sense of themselves as individuals, and exploring their ideals. I think it is prime time to become involved in politics. After all, the future will be run by present-day teens.

My dad suggested I talk to members of the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis. Maybe they would have some insight into reasons why the voting age is what it is. Maybe they could also tell me if there is any way of lowering it.

So last month, my dad and I went to Annapolis. We visited Del. John Donoghue, who represents Hagerstown in the House of Delegates. We also talked to Sen. Jamie Raskin of Montgomery County, who proposed a petition to lower the voter registration age to 16.

Raskin wants to register voters while they're still in high school, while they're learning about state government and before college students leave their homes for distant places. High school students might be more receptive to the excitement of voting, Raskin said. He said that other politicians are thinking about this, too.

Alice Wilkerson, Raskin's legislative assistant, said that American society places significance on age 18 as an indication of maturity. She said not all 15-year-olds are ready to vote. They don't have enough life experience to formulate opinions. Also, many simply take after their parents' political stance at that point in their lives.

I thought there could be a way that 15-year-olds would be able to show they were qualified to vote. But Wilkerson said a merit-based system for registration would be stepping backward. It could not be unbiased.

Also, Wilkerson said, the trend in America is to give the right to vote to more people rather than fewer people. If the government starts selecting eligible teen voters from all teens, the voting rights of people older than 18 might also be affected. Currently, at age 18, American citizens can vote, regardless of education, ethnicity, level of maturity, etc. It is a right and a national priority.

So separating mature, capable 15-year-olds from ineligible 15-year-olds might threaten something that means a lot to society, Wilkerson said.

Maybe at this point America, or the State of Maryland, isn't ready to handle lowering the voting age. After all, it requires careful consideration.

But I still think there are some teens younger than 18 who are mature and responsible enough to vote. Why deny them?

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