The voting age needs to be lowered

Southborough to decide in March


Jax Jackson

Staff Writer Cass Melo writes that the voting age needs to be lowered because 16 year-olds can make many valuable contributions to their community.

Cass Melo, Staff Writer

Although America’s government supposedly runs on democracy, this privilege is typically withheld from youth. However, at this year’s Southborough Town Meeting, voters will be tasked with the question addressed by many cities and towns across the country: should 16 and 17 year-olds have the right to vote? The answer needs to be yes.

On March 25, St. Mark’s School senior James Nichols-Worley will present a Warrant Article to Town Meeting attendees, aiming to expand Southborough’s voting age in town-wide elections to 17 year-olds, following in the footsteps of several Massachusetts towns and cities, including Boston, whose city council approved an amendment in November 2022.

Political participation in our community at a younger age would be an incredible privilege and opportunity for youth. While some critics believe those under 18 are not yet qualified to vote, the truth is 16 year-olds already participate in many adult responsibilities including driving, filing taxes and, as recorded in a 2022 Bureau of Labor Statistics Report, over half of young Americans hold jobs, many of which are in their own communities. If they can handle those responsibilities due to their maturity level, who is to say they shouldn’t be able to exercise that responsibility in a way that supports their community?

The majority of individuals who would be eligible to vote at 17, if this proposition is passed, would be juniors and seniors in high school. Expanding the right to vote for engaged and educated students helps reinforce their civics education. If teenagers are able to participate in democracy while still attending school, they will be able to build better voting habits which may continue throughout their lives.

 While some may believe that adults have nothing to gain from the cause, that is not the case. Allowing young individuals to participate in their town’s democracy has the power to unify a community and create stronger connections between individuals. Those teenagers are then likely to feel closer to their hometown as they get older, and therefore have more interest in staying in town to become a long-term resident and taxpayer. 

Local Massachusetts State Representative Kate Donaghue has worked with teens and high schoolers for many years and always encouraged young people to be active in democracy.

“I think there are many advantages to giving 16 and 17 year olds the ability to vote in town elections,” Donaghue said. “There are teens who aren’t paying much attention to what’s happening in their town, but there are also some older residents who aren’t.”

Expansion of the voting age is often criticized based on misconceptions of teenagers. According to a 2019 survey by Western New England University, only 42% of Massachusetts residents support an expansion of the local election voting age below 18, with the most common rationale against this proposal being that they lack the knowledge and maturity for the process. 

“Young voters care about how we run our schools, the quality of our town, and we are qualified to give back to our community,” Nichols-Worley said via email. “Young voters will always rise to the expectations we give them, and I have great expectations.”

According to Vote16USA, a youth activist group which advocates for expansion of the voting-age, a number of studies show there is no cognitive difference between 16 year-olds and adults, as peoples’ decision making process fully matures by the age of 16.

While the decision would only impact local elections and town meetings, there are still many important issues present at the local level. This year, a main agenda item being decided on is the Algonquin Athletic Complex, where one topic of discussion is the turf fields being put in: who better to vote on it than those who will have to play sports on it?

While many cities in Massachusetts, including Cambridge and Somerville, have proposed legislation to lower their voting age, if passed these new policies still need to be approved by the Massachusetts state legislature. It’s important to note that even if this particular warrant is passed in Southborough, it most likely will not go into effect immediately. The towns of Ashfield and Shelburne, Massachusetts, who, as reported in the Greenfield Recorder, passed the decision back in 2017, have still not been approved by the State House.

Do you think the voting age should be lowered to 16?


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Due to the fact that this petition has only been submitted in Southborough, Northborough residents will not be impacted, but they are still welcome to join in on the statewide efforts. Worley hopes to launch a door-to-door campaign in favor of the warrant, and plans to canvass across Southborough with other youth, encouraging voters to support the initiative.

“People say young voters are not ready to exercise our right,” Nichols-Worley said. “This is us saying yes we are.”

To learn more or join in the cause, read the full petition and explanation on MySouthborough, or contact Nichols-Worley by email at [email protected] or on Twitter