Citizens debate lower voting age
The eighteen year old vote is an issue that has come to increasing national attention this last year.
A bill was passed in Congress and signed by President Richard Nixon allowing eighteen year olds to vote.
This bill has been challenged as unconstitutional. The United States Constitution clearly states that voting qualifications will be decided by the individual states. Therefore it would be up to each state to decide whether or not the present voting qualifications need changing.
A second alternative would be to amend the Constitution, allowing eighteen year olds to vote in the national elections but leaving voting qualifications for state offices up to the states themselves. There has been a debate for years on whether or not the voting age should be lowered to eighteen.
Those who advocate lowering the voting age feel that if eighteen year olds are forced to serve in the armed forces and pay taxes, they should also be given the privilege of voting. Other supporters of the eighteen year old vote point out that, under the laws of most states, an eighteen year old is regarded as an adult. An eighteen year old can legally marry, and he also faces the death penalty for a capital crime in most states, including Illinois. An eighteen year old has the legal responsibilities and rights of an adult, with voting the sole exception.
A test case for the interest of youth in popular elections was the recent mock election. According to Tom, chair of the mock election, only about 350 of the 3600 students at Maine South voted in the election. Tom attributed the lack of student participation to two things. The first was poor publicity, for many knew almost nothing about the election. The second cause is what Tom considers the main reason, that is, student apathy. Despite his complaints about student apathy, Tom thinks that eighteen year olds should be given the vote. He says that "students would vote in actual elections if election registration were easier and if more absentee ballots were available for students at college."
Tom felt that "adults set a very poor example because they take so little interest in civic affairs." He also said that before eighteen year olds would be given the vote, "they would have to realize the importance and responsibility of voting."
Opponents of lowering the voting age feel that eighteen year olds are just not responsible enough to deserve the responsibility of voting. They feel that voting is a privilege, and that youth have to earn that privilege by sharing the responsibility of taxes and the draft.