Teens are talking about voting age, politics


With the presidential elections a little more than two weeks away, Teen Style staff members decided to jump into the debate, even though they have two to five years until they can cast their ballots

Conversation inevitably moved from the merits of the candidates to larger issues such as the voting age, the war in Iraq and abortion.

Sixteen-year-olds can work and therefore be taxed -- which amounts to taxation without representation -- but after some debate, the group eventually agreed that the voting age should not be lowered to include people their age.

"Sixteen might be too young to vote," said Kelly Northcutt, 15. "At that age, you are still learning and most of what you learn is from your parents."

Sierra Weir, 13, agreed. "Parents have a huge impact on your views," she said.

"You're not set in your ways at this age," said Josie Pacana, 13. "You're too young. At 18, you can be drafted. You are out of high school and on your own. You make your decisions less from pressure of friends and family."

Kylie Hawes, 15, wondered how much peer pressure would affect people's votes if 16-year-olds were allowed at the polls.

Already, she feels pressure from her friends who have different beliefs, she said.

Pacana agreed, "Even when you are voting for class president, it's all about popularity."

Everyone agreed that this was the first election they had ever paid attention to and listened to both sides.

"Actually, if you think about it, 16-year-olds should know what's going on because they take civics classes," said Mataya Flaherty, 15. "Maybe if (younger people) could vote, it would encourage them to get involved."

Pacana wondered if 16-year-old voters would be any more active than existing voters.

"Too many people don't vote who can," she said.

Maybe younger teens want to vote simply because they are not allowed to, some wondered.

"People want to (drink) because it's illegal," said Jessica Peters, 16. "Things that are outlawed are more desirable."

That logic brought up the idea that maybe if the voting age were moved to 25, for example, it would make voting more desirable to 18- to 25-year-olds.

"At one time, women didn't have the vote and when they got it they used it, but now even that is fading," Pacana said.

Maybe the vote could be moved to 17, someone suggested.

"A lot of people our age are worried about the draft," Northcutt said. "We should be able to vote if the president that's elected may (soon) be able to send us to war."

Pacana said she would not vote for Kerry because he wants to keep abortion legal. Her mention of the abortion issue sparked a lively discussion. The majority agreed that abortion was wrong, and they would not support a pro-choice candidate.

But the war in Iraq was the biggest factor in their determination of who is the best candidate.

"I think most people have forgotten why we went," said Melissa Walsh, 15.

"They went because there were weapons of mass destruction, but they didn't find any," Pacana said.

"And if not, they have some in North Korea and they have some in Iran," Hawes said. "They only missed it by a letter."

No one could agree whether the United States should be in Iraq. They seemed confused about why America is there and talked themselves in circles over it, repeating things they had heard from parents and at school.

"I think it was 9/11. Right?" someone said.

"What about oil?" Walsh said. "They gave Saddam 24 hours to surrender, and it was something about that."

There was one thing they could agree on.

"I support the troops," Northcutt said. "Whether the war is right or wrong, it's not their choice to be there."

Beyond the war in Iraq and abortion, the girls also mentioned education as a big issue that would help them choose the right candidate.

The group agreed smaller class size is important and the government needed to find money to pay good teachers, but they had heard conflicting things about the No Child Left Behind act.

"I read an article about that that said it helps dumb kids do well and holds back smart kids," said Susie Ford, 16.

"Smart kids give up because school isn't challenging enough," Pacana said. "Maybe we should try something else."


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.