Friday, October 28, 2011

Let 'em Vote (in Lowell)

Hey, guess what? There's actual movement on one of Plain Blog's hobbyhorses, young voting. Nothing radical, but according to TAP's Sally Kohn, high school students in Lowell, Massachusetts are spearheading a "Vote 17" effort to lower the voting age for local elections by one year. Here's the students involved:
“When you’re 17, that’s when most of us are seniors,” said Carline Kirksey, one of the youth leaders of the campaign. “You have more adult responsibilities. You can join the military. You can be tried as an adult in court.”
Another organizer Corinne Plaisir chimes in, saying that at 18 many young people are off at college. Figuring out the process all alone and voting unceremoniously by absentee ballot aren’t exactly enticements to civic participation. Instead, argues Plaisir, if young people can start voting in high school as part of their civics education, “It’s a prime time to engage in our civic rights.” Plus research has shown that when teens engage in even mock elections, their voter turnout as adults increases by almost 10 percent.
I don't know if that research is good, or even care a whole lot about voter turnout rates; all I know is that the case for teenage voting seems very strong to me. Part of that is simply the place of voting within the system: as I see it, voting is just the entry-level political act, and since we allow and even encourage teenagers to do far more important forms of political action, I can't imagine a good case for them to not share in voting.

I'm aware of the arguments against younger children voting, and while I'm increasingly convinced that they're wrong, I do still think there's a reasonable case to be made that way. But high school kids, and certainly 17 year olds? Of course they should have the vote. Good job, high school students from Lowell, and good luck.

(I can't leave this without taking the opportunity to mention the perhaps only tangentially related argument that everyone at or above voting age should be eligible to run for office, as argued by John Seery in his new book, Too Young to Run?. He's right!).


  1. Rick Perry is way ahead of you - he's got kids contributing to his campaign. Not nickels and dimes, but $2500 a pop (the same as the limit on donations from individuals, in a coincidence for the ages). If kids can give money, surely they can vote too.

  2. My response to this is basically a Jeffersonian one-- Civic and personal freedom are closely linked in a free society. Break that link (ie, give the vote to minors, who lack personal freedom), and you potentially weaken our commitment to both freedoms. Conversely, it may also weaken our societal commitment to the young. "Do it for the children" could be answered by "let the children find their remedy at the ballot box."


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