Turning 16, for many teenagers, means finally driving a car without supervision or starting the college search. Now, a new campaign is hoping to add the ability to vote in local elections to the milestones of that age. The campaign, called Vote16USA, which will be announced on Wednesday, aims to lower the voting age to 16 from 18 to spur civic engagement by younger Americans. But the push, by a nonpartisan group based in New York called Generation Citizen, which seeks to promote youth participation in politics, is igniting a debate about voter competency, adolescent decision making and whether allowing younger people to vote is the best way to politically engage teenagers. Opponents say that teenagers are not mature enough to vote at 16, that they will not make informed decisions and that Vote16USA is a partisan push to get more liberals on voter rolls. Advocates, however, argue that lowering the voting age would increase turnout, allow teenagers to weigh in on issues that directly affect them and push schools to improve civic education.
“Given the general malaise that faces this country’s political process right now, this is a way to get young people actually excited,” said Scott Warren, executive director of Generation Citizen.
Mr. Warren cited the midterm elections last year to make his point. Nationally, only 36 percent of eligible voters participated, a 72-year low for all federal elections, according to a report by the group. Only 19.9 percent of voters ages 18 to 29 cast ballots, the lowest youth turnout rate ever recorded, the report said.
… The last time the voting age was a major issue was in 1971, when lawmakers passed the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 from 21, aligning it with the minimum age for military service during the Vietnam War.