Teenagers: Rock the Vote

Only Phillips Academy students, parents, faculty, and alumni should be entitled to vote in the presidential election this November. With all the unqualified voters out there, can we really trust the general populace with the future of our country? The electoral abilities of Joe Schmoe are zilch in comparison to those of “Phil Andover,” a rational, all-encompassing, reasonable, well-informed, educated, and impartial evaluator of candidates. Of course, not everyone can comprehend the inherent wisdom of this proposal of limiting voting to the educational elite. (I could not believe it either.) In fact, in diametric opposition, some teenagers, using the unprecedented slogan of “No Taxation without Representation” wish to reduce the voting age so that, in some cases, suffrage age will be as low as 14. Insanity or genius?—there is a thin line. On the one hand, as 17 year-olds from California such as Robert Reynolds argue, the state deems many teenagers sufficiently mature to pay taxes and drive a car, neither of which is less complicated than voting. If teenagers are being treated as adults when filling out tax returns and operating Hummers, why is Justice blind when it comes to their ability to pick between candidate ads? To those who claim that teenagers are too immature to vote, the argument always exists: who elected Ahnold? On the other hand, one slogan behind the 26th Amendment, which, in 1970, reduced the voting age from 21 to 18, was “Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Vote,” because the protests by youngsters were contemporaneous with Vietnam drafts. I am not acquainted with too many Juniors, Lowers, or even brave Uppers or intrepid Seniors, who are just itching to enlist for Iraq. Maybe willingness to serve for your country should be a prerequisite to determining your country’s future. Israel, Austria, and some parts of Germany have lowered their voting ages without any tangible negative repercussions, according to some sources. Of course, by that logic, perhaps we should reinstate the draft as in Israel, and lower the drinking age like in Germany. No, ultimately, the US should determine the United States’ domestic policy based on what will work best in our own country. We are, or at least, perceive ourselves to be, sui generis. In 1787, the framers of the Constitution seemed to be working toward the concept of popular sovereignty—giving every citizen (excepting women and slaves) a voice in the government. However, as evidenced by such measures as the Electoral College and the voting age restriction, universal suffrage is not unlimited. Interestingly, Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin and the other guys did not impose an education requirement for the electorate, undermining my opening proposal. But would that not make more sense than an arbitrary cut off of voting rights at age 18 rather than 17? Is a 17 -and-a-half year-old unqualified? After all, it seems somewhat farcical that 16 year-old kids can fly airplanes solo, if they study and practice, but cannot jump on the bandwagon for Jesse Ventura, Ross Perot or Donald Trump. One of my childhood friends has avidly studied for hours upon end for his aviation license, and is certainly more qualified to vote than an illiterate, hung-over, degenerate 55 year old who believes in alien abductions. Perhaps we could implement a voting license, much like driving licenses, available at age 16, after individuals demonstrate, through a test, like immigration and naturalization tests, or otherwise, they are capable of making rational, informed decisions about their country’s future. Then again, in my home state, Florida—the land of the butterfly ballot—even if I were 18, my vote would not count anyway, since the Supreme Court decides our elections. We must ask and answer questions about high schoolers before making any kind of rational assessment; otherwise, speculation would be our only beacon in deciding this intricate matter. How often do high school students read the newspaper? How influenced are they by flashy campaigns and demagoguery? How much do they care about current events that concern the nation not just them directly? How much of their own political views are their parents’ opinions reiterated? How does this compare to wise adults who now do our electing? What criteria are sensible? However, if we do grant the vote to teens, politicians will work hard to capture the “teen vote,” perhaps in vain, flailing attempts to appear “hip.” Perhaps, if Phil Andover were given exclusive suffrage, we might just actually get that Fluff in Commons.