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Give 16, 17-Year-Olds The Right to Vote

Source: The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) – a non-partisan research center on youth engagement based at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service – is expressing public support for initiatives to lower the voting age in local elections as a “promising strategy to significantly move the needle on seemingly intractable youth voting rates.”

In a blog posted on CIRCLE’s website, the leading national youth vote organization stated, “CIRCLE strongly endorses these efforts – many of them led by students – to directly engage young people in civic and democratic life.” CIRCLE’s recommendations are based on relevant research findings, including:

– Young people are knowledgeable enough to vote. A study found that 16-year-olds’ political knowledge is about the same as 21-year-olds’.
– Voting is habitual, and norms related to political engagement in high school have a lasting impact. Young people continue to have a higher turnout rate, even into their mid-30s, if they went to schools where a majority of students believe they should vote.
– Learning about voting in high school predicts actual voting once people reach age 18. The ability to cast a ballot while in school would, in turn, strengthen and underline the immediate relevance of civic education.

CIRCLE’s director and Associate Dean of Tisch College, Peter Levine, also has authored an op-ed in Politico on the topic titled, “Why the Voting Age Should be 17”.

In the op-ed, Levine states lowering the voting age will be good for our democracy in three distinct ways:

“First, it is a strategy for connecting civic learning in schools to an important act of citizenship: voting. Students can be taught about the process before they vote and can reflect on the experience in class.

“Second, it is a strategy for expanding the electorate over the long-term. The United States has one of the lowest turnout rates of any democracy in the world. Lowering the voting age in municipal elections won’t push us to the top, but it’s a step in the right direction.

“Finally, encouraging older adolescents to vote on local issues recognizes that they are deeply affected by public policy, and especially by schools, police and employment programs. We need their voice to make those policies and institutions better.

“After all, if the government affects you, you should get to vote.”

For a comprehensive background document on youth voting, including youth voting rates, research on why youth voting matters, what effects youth vote turnout and a list of additional research on youth voting over the last decade, visit CIRCLE’s “Quick Facts on Youth Voting.”