New movement urges lowering voting age to 16

Sergio Carlos, Opinion Page editor

Rushing from school to work, many teenagers feel the hardship of holding a minimum wage job while trying to balance homework and extracurricular activities. Due to their contribution to programs such as Social Security and Medicare, teenagers are directly affected by legislation made in all levels of government and therefore deserve to vote, according to sophomore Tena Gordon.

“If you are socially aware and into politics, then this is a good opportunity for you to put out your voice because you are affected by policy decisions,” Gordon said.

In July of 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 20 million 16- to- 24-year-olds were employed in summer jobs across the country.

“I think 16 year olds should have the opportunity to vote,” junior and Future Business Leaders of America President Joanna LaTorre said. “A lot of them probably would want to vote. The only thing is that they would have to be politically informed. Otherwise [they] might not know who [to] vote for and they would just vote for a cool name or who looks the coolest.”

But Advanced Placement Psychology teacher James Pustay opposes lowering the voting age.

“Developmentally, 16-year-olds are far from maturing, in terms of their executive decision making, their frontal lobe and their prefrontal cortex,” Pustay said. “From what I’ve witnessed at school, mentally and physically their brain[s] [aren’t] developed enough. I wouldn’t leave the country’s decision in the hands of immaturity. That’s not to say that there are some 16-year-olds that are better than 40-year-olds. But they’re still growing.”

Freshman Chase Beard also takes issue with extending suffrage to him and his peers.

“I feel like there are a lot of 16-year-olds with good opinions, but I don’t think [they] should vote because there are many 16-year-olds who don’t know about politics, and I don’t want the country in their hands,” Beard said.

According to the national voting rights organization FairVote, “research shows that 16- and 17-year-olds are as informed and engaged in political issues as older voters. [Sixteen-year-olds should be] empowered and make voting a habit in their formative years.”

When emailed about the status of 16-year-old suffrage legislation in the Florida legislature, State Rep. of Palm Bay John Tobia said the issue is “out of his purview” and a “federal matter.” (State Rep. Ritch Workman, State Sen. Thad Altman and U.S. Rep. Bill Posey did not immediately respond for comment.) However, local city governments in the country, such as Maryland’s Tacoma Park City Council, have lowered the voting age in local elections in previous years.

While currently there are no pending bills in the Florida Legislature or local city councils regarding lowering the voting age, LaTorre maintains the idea that “every person voting should be politically informed.”