Adalie Burton, Reporter

Democracy in America has long since relied upon the votes of citizens to determine leadership and representation. A responsibility such as this is clearly not the kind of thing to grant recklessly. However, there comes a time when things must change. During the 2016 presidential election, generations voted far more frequently the older they were. When older generations are disproportionately represented amongst voter turnouts, those who will be affected by changes in the country the most are overlooked. This sparked outrage amongst 16- and 17-year-olds who could not vote, as they had yet to reach the age of 18. They were incredibly upset to have been let down by the adults they trusted.

The results of the election were revealed to me the morning after, as I had attempted to stay up late enough to see them myself, but failed miserably. At first, I honestly thought I was being lied to. It took quite a bit of insistence from my parents and several rounds of intensive internet scouring to truly believe what was happening. As we came to understand the news, a form of disbelief seemed to take root in myself and my peers. This was quickly replaced with anger; I was only 11 at the time, but a quiet form of rage seemed to have gotten under my skin. The night before, I had no trouble falling asleep; I was entirely sure that I’d wake up the next morning and nothing would have really changed. I figured the adults would take care of it, and that I could go on with my rigorous training in the addition and multiplication of fractions.

It became clear to me in the months following the election that something needed to change. Here were people who wanted to vote and met every necessary requirement to vote other than their age. They are American citizens who had not been convicted of felonies and met every other one of their states’ requirements. Had they been able to cast them, their votes could have turned the election on its head. With a broader spectrum of voices being heard, the results of the election could have better served the ideals of those who symbolize the future of the country.

Some insist that adulthood should correspond with the right to vote. While this makes some sense, it also implies that being an adult is an automatic occurrence at 18. Realistically, legal adulthood in no way signifies one’s inherent maturity. 

Giving anyone the right to vote is a gamble, whether they be 16 or 60. No matter how well you know someone, you can never be sure if they’ll make a good decision. To argue that someone will or will not do the right thing is not only incredibly presumptuous, it is also perfectly likely to be incorrect. 

Many argue that 16-year-olds are not mature enough to make important decisions such as these, that they would make rash decisions. However, an argument such as this ignores the reality that anyone can make good and bad decisions. Some people at the age of 16 are taking care of families, making sure their siblings get to school on time, carrying multiple jobs. Some are not. Some adults are disregarding their responsibilities in favor of having fun and relaxing. Again, some are not. One’s age does not guarantee their maturity or ensure their recklessness.

People are worth more than their age; teenagers may have the same experiences as anyone else might. They worry about their future and deserve to have a say in it that’s worth a little more than the mundane little choices they make every day or how hard they try on an exam. Many sophomores and juniors are planning their academic pursuits. They’re taking and re-taking the SAT to get a score they’re proud of, researching degrees and career paths, and fantasizing about white-picket fences wrapped around houses in the suburbs. If they’re lucky, they’ll be able to control one or two of these things. Maybe they’ll get into their top college, find the city apartment of their dreams, or land an important internship. Most won’t be able to control many aspects of their lives at this point. There are simply too many outside factors, such as the decisions that those around them make while voting. If the future of any country lies in the hands of a group of teenagers, I can only hope they get a say in what happens to it beforehand.