We are organizing a campaign to fight for the right for our youth to vote. Specifically, after 5 years of working in partnership with youth leaders in the Alhambra Unified School District, we have decided to start a campaign that lowers the voting age for Alhambra School Board elections to be 16. Students are the ones who are directly impacted by the decisions of the school board, and we believe the students have a right to be a stakeholder while they are still going through school.

Why should we lower the age? A few key things for us:

Lowering the voting age can create lifelong voters and lead to a long-term increase in voter turnout.

  • Voting is habitual, and 16 is a much better time than 18 to establish the habit of voting.
  • At 18, people are in a state of transition that makes it less likely they will vote. At 16, young people can establish the habit of voting in a more stable environment, supported by family, peers, and teachers.  
  • In places that have lowered the voting age to 16 and tracked the data, 16- and 17-year-olds have consistently turned out at higher rates than 18-20 year olds (traditional first-time voters). (Data from Takoma Park, Austria, and some cities in Norway.)
  • Data shows that if someone votes in the first election they are eligible for, they are likely to become a habitual voter and keep voting in future elections. If someone does not vote in the first election they are eligible for, they are likely to become a habitual non-voter for the next several elections.
  • Data shows that voting in one election increases the probability of voting in the next election by up to 50 percent.

Lowering the voting age would ensure that elected officials to listen to young people and address their concerns.

  • Voting is the most reliable way for ordinary citizens to influence the government.
  • Elected officials pay most attention to those who vote.
  • There is no better way to ensure that young people’s voices are heard when it comes to local policymaking than giving them the right to vote.

Sixteen- and 17-year-olds are ready to vote.

  • Research shows that 16-year-olds have requisite civic knowledge and skills, and have the mental reasoning ability necessary to make informed choices.
    • Sixteen-year-olds’ level of civic knowledge is equal to 21-year-olds.
    • Voting is a behavior that relies on a thought process that is sometimes called “cold cognition” – a slow, deliberate, thought-out decision-making process. This is the opposite of “hot cognition” – the high pressure, impulsive decision-making process. It is true that 16-year-olds are not as good as older adults at hot cognition, but they are just as good as older young adults at cold cognition.

Lowering the voting age can encourage better civics education.

  • Students learn best when class material is relevant to their lives, and there is no better way to make civics classes relevant than by inviting students into the voting booth.
  • Letting 16- and 17-year- olds vote can push schools to focus more attention on effective civics education.
  • This is important because only one-third of Americans can name all three branches of government, and schools are failing to prioritize effective civics education as they focus on meeting accountability measures in other subjects.