The 2020 elections during the height of COVID caused many older poll workers not to volunteer which led more states to lower the minimum age to 16 to fill this critical role. Digital skills and sharp eyesight are among the many benefits for opening up this civic opportunity to teens (more about this trend is described in my 2020 Youth Infusion blog).
It is surprising that teens – who typically are stereotyped as unreliable and untrustworthy – hold these positions, especially at this horrifying time with concerted efforts to delegitimize and ambush the election process.
In contrast to many politicians and media outlets reigniting the juvenile Superpredator myth, a new study by the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement at the University of Maryland reveals a promising shift in adult attitudes.
When Americans hear messages about the competence of the young people in their communities – especially when they learn that 16 and 17 year olds serve as election workers — support for including them in our democracy jumps ever higher.Professor Mike Hanmer and Sam Novey, Government and Politics Department, University of Maryland.
This groundbreaking research demonstrates when adults learn about the civic involvement of individual young people, their attitudes inch towards more positive opinions about Generation Z. Instead of solid opposition to expanding voting rights to 16-year-olds, dare I say this data may signal that some older folks can be influenced to open their minds.
When respondents were prompted to think about the competence of the young people in their community, support for lowering the voting age jumped from just over ⅓ of respondents to nearly half of respondents.
The adage “Democracy is not a spectator sport” holds more meaning than ever. It is incumbent on adults to learn more about Vote16 campaigns across our country and talk with teens. My Youth Voice Plus Youth Vote TEDx as well as a prior blog, along with the resources below, provide additional background. Don’t be surprised that many young people have internalized the negative stereotypes about their generation and their initial reaction is similar to adults who oppose lowering the voting age.
On November 8, 2022 voters in Culver City, CA will decide whether to extend voting rights to 16-year-olds in municipal elections. If you lived in this Los Angeles suburb, how would you cast your ballot?
- Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement
- Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement
- Developmental Science Supports Lowering the Voting Age to 16
- EdSource “Teens Fight for the Right to Vote for School Board”
- Generation Citizen Vote16USA
- Maryland Case Study: Cities with 16-year-old Suffrage
- Oakland Youth Vote, CA
- Vote 16 Culver City, CA
- Vote 16 San Francisco, CA
It is up to adults to move from exclusion of minors to inclusion of this prized segment of the population. Share your thoughts and questions with us!