“No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts off from its youth severs its lifeline.” —Kofi Annan
Everyone has the human right to democratic processes regardless of age. Voting is one democratic process that shouldn’t be dependent on a person’s age. Age-based voting is an arbitrary barrier that disenfranchises a large minority of people in order to promote the power of a majority. It is meant to keep children and youth in check, and today we can see it failing.
For almost the entirety of the existence of the United States of America and most Western nations, there were ways to be disqualify minorities from voting. Slowly, those barriers are failing. Birthright, race, color, or previous condition of servitude, gender, and taxes are no longer legal barriers to voting. Real barriers still affect people because of those realities, but legally they’re not supposed to keep the vote from citizens.
Except for age.
Age Discrimination in Voting
Everyone who wants to vote should be allowed to do so. There’s no such thing as “knowing enough” about politics, democracy, elections, or the process. Simply speaking, voting is simply the act of choosing for someone who represents personal interests best in the public sphere. In a more complicated way, it is the acknowledgment that we’re responsible for the society we live in.
Not Waiting to Engage
Luckily, children and youth today aren’t waiting for the right to vote in order to exercise their democratic responsibilities. People under 18 report paying 2% of all employment taxes in the US, paying record amounts of taxes on their jobs, despite higher youth unemployment rates than ever. Youth volunteering to benefit the public good continues to happen in record numbers. Young people who can vote are voting in record numbers.