Teenagers today have access to what was known as "adult knowledge" in the past. As a result, they have been maturing more quickly, developing their critical thinking skills and becoming more aware of current events. There has been an historical trend toward lowering the voting age; first from 21 to 18, and recently legislation has been introduced in many places to lower the voting age from 18 to 16. I don't think these efforts go far enough. Although the voting age cutoff I propose is admittedly somewhat arbitrary, I believe 14 is the age at which most teenagers are knowledgeable enough to be trusted to cast an informed vote in primary and general elections, on a federal, state and municipal level. Most major religions in the world consider a person to have achieved adulthood at 13 or 14 and this appears to be backed up by the evidence nature provides. If cultures have recognized 13 or 14 as the age at which a person becomes an adult, I believe this provides some evidence that individuals of that age should be entitled to cast a vote in a democratic election for who should represent them.
While I would want the voting age to be lowered to 14 immediately and without restrictions, as an interim step, I would support legislation permitting individuals age 14-17 to take a 200 question test (100 questions on American History and 100 questions on American Government) on which they must score 80% or higher. The teenagers would then obtain a certificate they could submit to the Board of Elections to be placed on the voting rolls. Any teenager motivated enough to study for such an examination will have proven they are more likely to be an informed voter. But you might rightfully ask, do we apply the "informed voter" standard to adults before we permit them to vote. The answer is, of course, no. We do not deprive a senile person of this right, nor do we deprive any of the millions of mentally ill, low IQ, individuals who cast votes every election cycle. Intelligence or maturity is not the basis upon which the right to vote is granted in this country nor is a lack of education or information about election issues a grounds for withholding the franchise. Young people shouldn't be held to a stricter standard than adults
Youth are increasingly subject to adult penalties in the criminal justice system and, in many states, are tried as adults starting at age 14. What contradictory message do we send when we tell youth they are to be judged mature, responsible adults when they commit a crime but as immature, irresponsible children when they want to vote. Teens also pay taxes, nearly 10 billion dollars in sales taxes alone, yet they have no say over how much is taken. Taxation without representation is tyranny. Teens are also affected by every law that all Americans live under yet they have no ability to elect officials who represent their interests. Politicians represent various constituencies; young people aged 14-17 are no one's constituency. Why should politicians care about the needs and interests of youth when they have no ability to vote for or against them? Lowering the voting age to 14 will give politicians a real reason to respect the desires and opinions of young people.
Sam Sloan, a candidate for the 2012 Libertarian Party's Presidential Nomination, also came out for lowering the voting age to 14. On February 28, 2012, he issued a statement on this topic, which read, in relevant part:
With respect to lowering the voting age to 14, you might argue a young adult age 14, 15, 16 or 17 doesn't have the knowledge or interest to make good decisions in the voting booth but given the ever-increasing size of Big Government, it is obvious to me that most voters lack common sense or vote only in accordance with their own narrow interests. On the other hand, I have known many intelligent young adults who are active in their communities and schools and who should be given the opportunity to vote.
Dallwyn Merck, Executive Director of 14 Now!, a Youth Rights Advocacy Group that also supports lowering the voting age to 14, said:
The voting age will eventually be lowered to 14. I have no doubt that will happen in time. Allowing citizens to vote at age 18 when their lives are in transition is the worst possible time to develop in them the habit of voting. Voting will more likely become a habit if young people are allowed to vote at a younger age. In addition, schools will most likely provide a more vigorous civics curriculum if young people are permitted to vote and what better age is there than 14 to start them off when students are just entering High School. In addition, many High School students are working part time and paying taxes. Others are taking out student loans. There are many laws, including curfews and restrictions that only apply to those under age 18. The right to vote should be expanded to include this group of citizens so legislators can be more responsive to their needs and concerns. Finally, the energy and enthusiasm brought to the political process by younger voters will bring a passion to politics that will increase accountability from policymakers. The voting age should be 14 Now!
Thomas Robert Stevens obtained the nomination of the Personal Freedom Party to run for New York City Public Advocate at a convention held on May 11, 2013. At that convention, Sam Sloan was nominated as the Personal Freedom Party's nominee for Mayor and Kristin Davis was nominated as the Personal Freedom Party's nominee for Comptroller.