A New York Times Op-Ed today (Feb. 6, 2008) called “You’re Sixteen, You’re Beautiful, And You’re a Voter” argues that we should build on the growing momentum of youth interest in politics (up over the last 8 years) by letting younger voters vote. Author Anya Kamenetz notes how voters under age 29 were the first demographic to settle on the fact that Barack Obama was their man. She argues that, much like with early driver’s licenses (learning permits), we should lower the voting age to 16 if youth have taken and passed a civics course in high school much like a citizenship test. She argues that similar rules could lower the age to get credit cards, become legally married, drink alcohol, etc.
Bob Putnam and Thomas Sander have written about the growing interest of youth in politics and how this is something that needs to be stoked. (See “Sept. 11 As Civics Lesson“, Washington Post). I’m not ready to sign on to lowering age limits to everything but I agree that voting is something we should allow (for responsible youth) at a younger age and encourage. We should also couple this with more programs like KidsVotingUSA to give youth practice in exercising this important responsibility before they reach age 16.
You can read Anya Kamenetz’s Op-Ed here.