NewsDenver7 360 | In-Depth News, Opinion


Should the voting age be lowered to 16 across the United States?

Posted at 7:18 PM, Jul 25, 2018

Editor's Note: Denver7 360 stories explore multiple sides of the topics that matter most to Coloradans, bringing in different perspectives so you can make up your own mind about the issues. To comment on this or other 360 stories, email us at See more 360 stories here

DENVER -- There is a growing movement to lower the voting age to 16, but that question is sparking heated debate from all sides.

The case for letting 16-year-old's vote first started making headlines again following the Parkland shooting.

Supporters of the idea have pointed to this rise in student activism as challenging the tiresome stereotype that American teens are narcissists whose brains have been idled by smartphones.

In their view, if high school students can organize a worldwide march in face of an issue as difficult as gun control, they are more than capable of voting.

Others see the march as proof teens have a stake in the game, and politicians need to pay attention to them.

They ask the question: why hesitate to include a new demographic of voters, more eager and engaged than their elders?

Opposing viewpoints

Jon Caldara, president of Denver's Independence Institute, sees the issue from a completely different lens.

"I find it entertaining; so we're going to put out warnings not to eat Tide pods but we're also going to let them vote," he said.

Caldara also said he believes 16-year-olds shouldn't be allowed to vote on how other people's money is spent.

"To vote on other people's money when you're not paying into the tax structure in any sizable way, that seems a little irresponsible," he explained.

Then, there's what he called a double standard around gun control.

"If they can voice their first amendment rights, with the right to vote, they should be able to enjoy their second amendment rights at 16 as well but I have a feeling the Left won't allow that," said Caldara.

Are teens developmentally ready to vote?

Another view worth exploring comes from child psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Hagman.

"I think at 16, from a cognitive development stand point, kids have absolutely developed the cognitive ability to consider abstract concepts," said Dr. Hagman.

Hagman said there are numerous studies that show 16-year-olds have the ability to solve difficult problems and consider different challenging questions.

After all, she said, a lot of teens are more informed than older folks these days.

"They developed the ability to understand the rules of society and greater cultures," she said.

Other countries, U.S. cities with lower voting ages

Twenty countries have granted teens age 16 and 17 the right to vote. A handful of cities in the United States of America have done the same for local elections.

In 2013, Takoma Park, Maryland, became the first U.S. city to lower the voting age. Since then, nearby Hyattsville, Maryland, did too.

Meanwhile, in Berkeley, California, people 16 and up can now vote in local school board elections.

The question now is whether the rise in student activism will amount to any real change at the ballot box.