Elijah Bacal: Young people are mature enough to vote

  • In this Sept. 20, 2018 photo, voting booths stand ready in downtown Minneapolis for the opening of early voting in Minnesota. AP

Published: 12/9/2019 2:31:02 PM

My name is Elijah Bacal, and I’m a 15-year-old member of the Northampton mayor’s Youth Commission, a group representing young people in Northampton. One of our initiatives is lowering the city’s municipal voting age to 16.

Lowering the voting age to 16 for Northampton municipal elections will empower young people to become more civically engaged and informed and strengthen the city’s democracy as a whole. Studies show that voters who begin voting at a younger age are more likely to vote consistently throughout their lives. Additionally, voting provides a new way for high schoolers to engage with civic education. Teens will be even more engaged and motivated by civics and government classes if they know they will have a hand in deciding the fate of the issues they are discussing.

Further, 16-year-olds engage with the economy, politics and life in general in many ways similar to adults. Many 16- and 17-year-olds work, pay taxes and are subject to the same labor laws and adults. They also take care of younger siblings and even children of their own, and support their families in other ways. Sixteen-year-olds receive driver’s licenses and are often tried in adult courts.

It is clear that young people are mature enough to cast an informed, responsible vote. Studies show that a 16-year-old has the same rational mental capacity involved in voting as any other young adult. Additionally, unlike past generations, technology allows young people today to learn about multiple sides of issues from reputable sources, free of charge.

Finally, given our current political climate, it is unconscionable to deny 16- and 17-year-olds suffrage. Our federal government ignores climate change, the gravest and most existential threat that today’s youth faces, and cuts funding for public education. The youth of Northampton deserve the right to vote for their School Committee members, and determine Northampton’s response to the climate crisis.

If you agree with me that young people deserve the right to vote in Northampton’s municipal elections, visit tinyurl.com/vote16northampton, and sign on to support our initiative as we prepare to lobby the Massachusetts Legislature.

Elijah Bacal


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