Lowering the Voting Age
FairVote supports expanding suffrage to 16 and 17-year-olds in municipal elections. The proposal to extend voting rights to people after they turn 16 may surprise some, but the latest research is a revelation. All evidence suggests that cities will increase turnout by allowing citizens to cast their first vote after turning 16. The reason is simple. Many people at 16 and 17 have lived in their communities for years and are taking government classes in high school. That combination results in more people exercising their first chance to vote if they are 16 or 17 than if they are unable to vote until they have left home and school.
A voting age of 18 means that many people won't get a chance to vote in city elections until they are nearly 20. A detailed study of voting age and voters in Denmark found that 18-year-olds were far more likely to cast their "first vote" than 19-year-olds, and that every month of extra age in those years resulted in a decline in "first vote" turnout. Allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local elections will enable them to vote before leaving home and high school, and establish a life-long habit of voting.
Lowering the voting age to 16 is becoming an international movement. A growing number of nations like Austria, Argentina, Germany and the United Kingdom that have extended voting rights to people at 16 for national, regional or local elections. Evidence from Austria confirms that extending voting rights to people after they turn 16 promotes higher turnout for first-time voters and over time. Austria's experience also shows that 16- and 17-year-olds are ready for voting as far as making choices that accurately reflect their views.
Long-time backers of a lower voting age, like the National Youth Rights Association, make a fairness argument as well. Turning 16 has special significance in our culture. At age 16, we can drive, pay taxes and for the first time work without any restriction on hours. Many states already allow citizens under 18 to vote in Democratic and Republican primaries for president, Congress and governor.