Philosophical Multicore

Sometimes controversial, sometimes fallacious, sometimes thought-provoking, and always fun.

Lowering the Voting Age: You’re Missing the Point

Posted by Michael Dickens on March 23, 2010

One of the most prominent arguments against lowering the voting age is that young people will vote irrationally. They might vote for radicals. Or Muslims. Or even *gasp* atheists. Proponents of a lowered voting age respond that most youth are unlikely to vote irrationally; most will simply follow the ideologies of their parents, and anyway, people who don’t know anything about voting probably won’t vote anyway. And these proponents are completely missing the point.

It does not matter whether young people are likely to vote for radicals, Muslims, atheists, or whichever group of supposedly crazy people you want. They live in this country and many of them pay taxes, so they get the right to vote. And this means that they have the right to vote for anyone. Would you make it illegal for adults to vote for radicals, or for Muslims, or for atheists? Or if you found that, for instance, women were more likely to vote for radicals, would that justify making it illegal for women to vote? Absolutely not! The right to vote means that you have the right to vote for whoever you want, even if it is not a rational choice. If you want, you can flip a coin to decide who to vote for. That’s your right as a taxpaying citizen. The fact that you can make intelligent decisions is not what gives you the right to vote. What give you the right to vote is that you must live in this society, under this government, and so you get a say in this government’s decisions.

Anyone who says that youth should not vote because they will vote a certain way, or anyone who responds by saying that youth will just vote for whomever their parents vote for, has the mind of a tyrant. It seems perhaps more than merely curious that Joe Citizen wants to prohibit youth from voting because of their potential tendency to vote for radical candidates — the candidates that he personally does not like. Joe would hardly say that youth should not be allowed to vote because there is a chance that they will vote for his candidate. No, it’s always the other candidate that is the “irrational” choice. Why not just make it illegal to vote for anyone besides the candidate that you personally like best? One man’s irrationality is the next man’s reason. No matter what a person’s reasoning is, they still have a right to vote as long as it is out of their own free will. “They will vote irrationally” really means “they will vote with different reasoning than mine.”

Perhaps I am exaggerating. After all, Joe Citizen has no problem with letting other people his age cast their votes into the ballot. But Joe is holding a double standard. If someone votes for a particular option or candidate, there must be a reason. Maybe adults are united in disagreeing with young people’s reasoning, but that does not make their reasoning wrong. In a democracy, any sort of reasoning is correct.

It is arguable that these youth’s potentially foolish voting decisions will affect the whole country. That’s true, but so will YOUR decisions. They have just as much a right to invoke folly on the nation as you do to invoke reason on it.

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3 Responses to “Lowering the Voting Age: You’re Missing the Point”

  1. Matt said

    I suppose you could argue though that people are more likely to understand certain political topics, etc. if they are adults. I know that there are tons of you young punks going around knowing more about politics then the old farts that think you know nothing, but you need to realize that there are also a lot who don’t. Besides, voting really isn’t important on a personal level anyways. While allowing a large group to vote may tip the scales one way or another, your own personal vote doesn’t really matter. At all. That’s why I don’t vote.

    Think about it. If 200 people are voting between (a) and (b) and you vote (a) and (b) wins with 150 votes then your vote didn’t matter because without you it would have had the same result and if your voted for (b) it would be the same. You can argue about the possibility of it coming down to a single vote, but if that ever happened, there would be a recount and the results would differ ever so slightly so that the winner wins by an extremely small margin of only a few thousand or so and your vote would still be worthless. Thus, your vote has literally zero effect on the outcome of the election.

    Of course, if you want to effect change, get a big group together to vote for this or that. The more people you convince and the smaller of an effect you are aiming for the more likely that you will actually have an effect, but its still not very likely that you will actually be able to have an effect.

    • There are plenty of young people who don’t know anything about voting, but like I said, that’s missing the point.

      What you say about votes not mattering is somewhat paradoxical. If everyone realized that their vote made zero difference, then absolutely no one would vote. Then, a single vote would be the deciding factor, and thus would mean everything. Everyone would realize this, and vote. So it seems that voting is, in a sense, a way of keeping your opponent’s vote from mattering.

  2. Kelly Dickens said

    I wonder how many voting-age people make rational, well-informed decisions about voting. I’m guessing a minority of them. Anyway, I’d like to add that, in my experience, minors are no less rational than adults. They sometimes show less discretion (another way of saying that they are more honest), and since we grant them little personal or political power, they may express their needs in ways deemed to be inappropriate. (“Underhandedness is the only resort against those who have the upper hand.”)

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