Teens rising above expectations

Local students fighting for adolescent suffrage in Greater Cincinnati

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Photo courtesy of: Circle

This is an estimate showing the youth local election turnout statistics from 1994-2018. Last year, the midterm election youth turnout has been the highest it had ever been in 25 years. This trend has seen consistency since 2010.

With the recent municipal elections for city council, mayor and all other local authoritative figures, many people, specifically teenagers below the voting age, are questioning what their role is in politics. Anyone could open their local newspaper and regurgitate the names of those who are running in the elections, but as the common saying goes: “actions speak louder than words,” and teens all across the U.S. are demanding action.

Most campaigns to lower the voting age so far have been youth-led. This means that Generation Z is desperate to play a larger part in our nation’s democratic process.

However, an act as large as lowering the voting age can only be executed by larger offices. According to the History Channel, when Richard Nixon changed the voting age of all federal, state and local elections from 21 to 18 in 1970, it seemed necessary, as 18 year-olds were being drafted into the Vietnam War at the time.

David de la Fuente, a writer for USA Today, wrote an opinion piece on why lowering the voting age is necessary for how teens are being held accountable in society. “About 250,000 youth are tried, sentenced or incarcerated as adults every year across the USA. When they’re contributing to society or being held liable by society in these ways, they should also be able to weigh in on the future of our country and those responsible for the laws that affect them.”

Now that more controversial topics such as climate change and global warming are prominent, and teens have more access to technology and social media than ever before, the question arises of when, and specifically at what age, a person should have a say in political decisions.

RYSE.16 is a WHHS/local organization working to lower the voting age to 16 in Cincinnati. RYSE stands for Rallying Youth for Suffrage and Empowerment, and they focus on educating teens on civic policies in order to prepare them to vote.

The common argument is that kids don’t know anything, why should they be able to vote? So, if we can try to combat that with education, it really helps.”

— Lucy Phillips, '21

“That’s part of our mission as RYSE advocates, adding to civics classes in order to prepare these students,” Lucy Phillips, ‘21, a member of RYSE, said. “The common argument is that kids don’t know anything, why should they be able to vote? So, if we can try to combat that with education, it really helps,” Phillips said.

RYSE.16 also believes that with lowering the voting age, they can prevent many issues concerning voter attendance in municipal elections, because, historically, the voting group of 18-24 year-olds has had the lowest turnout in elections.

“One of the main reasons why we rarely ever get above a 15 percent voter turnout is because it’s so hard to vote. It’s very difficult to get to the polling station and find the information especially with all of the misinformation happening. As well as a feeling that no matter what you vote, it won’t change, which is why I think we need to we need to do something revolutionary and something to really change the system because in places where they have lowered the voting age to 16, it increased the voter turnout for all elections, including local,” Yousuf Munir, ‘21, founder of RYSE.16, said.

When placed next to presidential elections, this may be seen as quite insignificant. However, there are many reasons to contradict this, especially when it pertains to today’s youth.

Jaden Deal, a writer for Harvard Politics, wrote an article advocating for lowering the voting age in all local elections in the U.S. “Municipal elected officials make decisions for entire local communities, ranging from public safety to taxes and public education, which have significant effects on young people’s daily lives,” Deal said.