Saturday, September 01, 2007

Sweet Sixteen and Already the Polls

Hi! It's Natalia here, New Moon's former editorial intern and blogger. After my internship ended, I took a 6-week hiatus from blogging to travel, write, and work on coordinating a program in my community called Madison SOS (Speak Out, Sister!) - The Young Women's Leadership Forum. Now I'm back to blogging! Stay tuned...

Earlier this week, the New York Times wrote about the current national trend towards lowering the voting age to sixteen. Was the Times a little behind the times? Well, yes--New Moon featured the topic last September in Voice Box! But we're happy to see that the conversation has continued. And this time, the whole country's talking.

I enjoyed reading the thoughtful Times article, and I would encourage you to read it, too. But I was frustrated by the way the writer stereotyped teens a few times too many. Take her opening paragraphs:

"It is a nippy November Tuesday and your 16-year-old has her day all planned out. After school, she’ll have a rehearsal of her high school musical, “High School Musical.” She’ll instant-message her friends about that ridiculous question on the trig test, and she’ll drive to the mall for a burger with her boyfriend.

Then she’ll head to the polls, where she’ll cast a vote on a bond issue for a new prison, a referendum on property taxes, and the races for governor, senator and president of the United States.

If that sounds farfetched, it’s because in this country, at least, not a lot of people spend time debating the age at which a citizen can begin to vote, let alone whether a baby-faced 16-year-old should."

It's the media's same old trap: telling us that all teens (specifically, teen girls) are about is clothes, boys, make-up, shopping... In other words, that teens can't see beyond their own noses. I would challenge that. Teens care about more than that! The mainstream media might not want to admit the power of teens' voices, but there are plenty of teens who care about issues like poverty, the environment, peace, and civil rights...we know, just from the letters we receive from New Moon readers!

Is lowering the voting age the best way for teens to get involved in the political process, to make sure that decision-makers hear their voices? That's up to you. But I'm happy to see that the US is joining the bandwagon of efforts around the world to put power in the hands of teens, and to finally give issues facing young people the attention they deserve. (For the record, countries with 16-year-old-voting include Austria, Brazil, Cuba, and Nicaragua.) After all, the article points out: if teens were casting ballots, perhaps certain all-powerful politicians might start looking more at the issues we face and care about, like the environment and education.

Above: a poster from a British campaign

But it shouldn't have to take lowering the voting age for elected officials (and other adults whose decisions dictate our lives) to start listening to us!

Join the conversation! Leave us a comment and tell us if YOU would vote at 16 (or younger!). Do you support lowering the voting age?


Angel said...

I am SO very much in support of lowering the voting age to 16!

I don't know that I would have voted at that age--I was not very politically savvy.

But my daughter is chomping at the bit to get involved in making changes to her world. I think we figured it out, based on her birthday, she wouldn't be able to vote in a presidential election until she was 21.

Teens can work, drive, and--what a great photo--get married. They have to pay taxes. But they can't be involved in the process. CRAZY.

As a mom, I am so grateful for your magazine!! My daughter is smitten :)

Denise said...

I think it's a great idea. I know a lot of people complain that even 18-year-olds "don't vote," but the truth is, those who care do vote. There's a lot of "adults" that don't vote either. It's not a reason to not let people vote. True, 16-year-olds might just vote like their parents or be easily persuaded by peers, but so are adults! Adults are persuaded by advertising and peers. If anything, I think it would help to get youth involved much earlier on, teach critical thinking and analysis, teach an awareness to the power of advertising, and give youth a stronger sense of responsiblity about what goes on in this country. If you don't like it, change it. But how can you change it if you can't vote?

Apple Girl said...

In 2005, children and teens under 18 years old made up nearly a quarter of the population of the United States. So shouldn't we have a quarter-say in what goes on in our world?
In the same article, the author discussed a system of half- and quarter-votes for 16 and 14 year olds, respectively. I think that that makes sense- no one grows up all of a sudden. Gradual increase of responsibility is much more common.

Anonymous said...

No, I disagree.

Anonymous said...

I think that if all girls were like New Moon girls, changing the voting age would be a good idea, but because they're not, 18 is a good age because in those two short years girls and boys mature a ton.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't lower the voting age. Some teens are not ready to take on that responsibiliy. All though, yeah, if all girls were like New Moon girls, that would be a good idea.

Emma said...

I think that the voting age should be lowered BUT that political education would have to be increased so that they teens could make educated descisions. At 16 many people are making their own descisions and running their own lives so why can't they help run the country? If teens thought people thought they were responsible enough to vote, I think that they would become more responsible in other areas also.