Students and faculty consider the pros and cons of lowering the voting age

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Senior Olivia Ross fought quite a few battles as a freshman–not battles of bloodshed but rather of words. Ross participated in political debates in her class, Debate 1. She said that the debates she had in class helped her become a more politically aware voter  for the future.

“(Debate 1) really forced me to take a stand on the issues I have an impression about,” Ross said.
The National Youth Rights Association (NYRA), an organization devoted to promoting youth rights, argues that there are many other teenagers like Ross who are well-versed in political issues and should be able to vote as young as 16 years old.

However, others, such as  government teacher James Ziegler, disagree. Ziegler said that few students coming into his class are aware of political issues.

“It doesn’t seem like a lot of kids who are 16, 17 and 18 have too much of a background in what happens in the political world,” Ziegler said.

Despite her political experience, Ross pointed out that many students are quick to follow other people’s political views without any justification.

“I think a lot of people just go along with whatever their parents are for,” Ross said.

The NYRA argues that youth may support the candidates their parents vote for because they have similar beliefs as their parents and not because the younger generation are persuaded to do so by their parents.

However, Ziegler said he disagrees. He said he believes teenagers have a tendency to support candidates their parents support as a replacement for doing their own research on candidates.

“(A teenager) may just vote based off what they hear someone else saying and not be fully going out and investigating on their own,” Ziegler said. “Or maybe their parents vote a certain way so they’re  naturally just going to follow what their parents vote (for).”

Either way, the NYRA states that lowering the voting age will increase political interest and voter turnout among youth. Ziegler, however, is doubtful of the potential benefits of lowering the voting age.

“I think it’s a worthy cause to get more people voting, but at the same time, the lowest voter turnout is amongst our youth,” Ziegler said. “I don’t know if lowering the voting age would… contribute to a larger amount of (youth) voting.”

Senior Akshay Kumar, unlike Ziegler, agrees with the NYRA’s belief that lowering the voting age will increase political interest in youth. In addition, Kumar said that lowering the voting age could be beneficial because present-day teenagers are more intelligent than those before.

“Most (teenagers), at a lower age, are starting to mature a lot faster than we were before,” Kumar said. “We have strong political views and we should be able to express our views.”

While Kumar acknowledges that not all teenagers are mature or politically aware, he states that such people would not cause a problem if the voting age is lowered because they probably would not vote anyway.
“If (some students) don’t want to vote or aren’t politically aware, then they just don’t have to vote,” Kumar said.

Freshman Ryan Middleton also said he believes that the voting age should be lowered. In fact, he said that lowering the voting age would cause him to become more politically aware.

Despite their opposing viewpoints about the voting age, both Ziegler and Middleton agree with the NYRA’s argument that teenagers have a unique perspective of American society of which they should inform politicians.
“I think (politicians) could get a better representation of the younger generation (if they vote),” Middleton said.

However, Ziegler said that more teenagers should become politically aware before any decisions are made to lower the voting age.

In addition, he said that the reason youth tend not to be very politically involved is that many important political issues do not immediately affect them.

“I think as a kid, you’re just not interested as much in (politics),” Ziegler said. “You don’t necessarily see how different political policies and philosophies impact you as a kid as much as they do when you’re an adult.”
Nevertheless, he said that there are many ways for teenagers to learn more about politics, such as watching the news or listening to podcasts of political discussion. He also said teachers could help by incorporating the study of current events into regular classroom discussions.

“I think just exposure to the issues (of politics) could help teenagers become more politically aware,” Ziegler said.

In particular, Ziegler said he believes it is a good idea that government be a required class for high school seniors in Indiana in the sense that it allows students to learn more about the workings of American politics and to be informed of the government.

“Hopefully once (students) begin to learn a little bit more about the issues (of modern American politics) by taking government, it strikes that passion in students (to learn more about the policies that affect them),”
Ziegler said.

Kumar said he believes that schools could allow students who are not politically aware to become more so by emphasizing politics in courses even more.

“(Teachers) could start teaching government classes a little early on in high school than wait for it to be taught in senior year,” Kumar said. “History classes that (students) do take should stress government issues a little bit more than they do currently.”

Meanwhile, Ross said she continues to expand her political knowledge and offer advice to other teenagers to help them learn more about politics.

“Watch the news. At my house, (my family and I) read the newspaper together every morning,” Ross said. “Group discussion is great.”

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