Posted by / Tuesday 25 September 2018 / No comments

Lowering the voting age to 18: advantages and disadvantages

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In many countries of the world today, the earliest age at which one is allowed to vote is 18. This however was not the case. The earliest age of voting used to be 21. In the United States for example, it was the introduction of the 26th Amendment which lowered the age of voting from 21 to 18. The re-introduction of constitutional rule in West Africa and the adoption of new constitutions led to the pegging of the voters age at 18 in consonance with the new trends of the time. There are still countries whose voting age remains at 21, these include Singapore and Malaysia. However, pinning the voting age at 18 is not a silver-bullet; it has its own advantages and disadvantages.

It widens representation
One of the advantages of lowering the voting age to 18 is that many more people will be represented in government. In the early days of democracy, citizens directly participated in governance. However, with increased population that is no longer possible and that is why some people decide to represent others in government after they have been voted for in an election. When people are therefore allowed to vote at 18 then many more people would be involved in choosing the leaders. A leader, then truly represents the majority of the people.

It brings the youths’ perspective to the fore
Another advantage of people voting at 18 is that it helps to bring on board what the youth think. The youth of today better understand new technology and are faster to adopt them. If a politician raises a policy issue especially on emerging trends, the youth can assess it and come to a relevant conclusion. If they are allowed to vote on same it will help to bring their perspective along.

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They are allowed to do other things at 18
Many countries now allow their 18 year old to start work at 18, marry at 18, and consent to sex at even less than 18. The argument then is this, if an 18 year old is deemed old enough to work and the government deducts taxes from his or her pay and the same is given the liberty to consent to sex, allowing him or her vote at 18 to decide who makes laws to govern him cannot be out of the ordinary.

People at 18 are criminally charged as adults
It is a known fact that if an individual of 18 years is arrested for a crime committed, he or she is charged as an adult. If the person is found culpable, that person is sentenced as an adult and serves the sentence in an adult correctional institution. If an 18 year old can be affected by a system that can put him or her in jail for breaking the law, then he or she must have a say in determining who puts the criminal justice system in place.

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To gain political experience
Another advantage of pegging the voting age at 18 is that the youth are able to acquire political experience very early in their lives. The common slogan is that the youth are the future leaders of the nation. If this is true then the youth must be given the opportunity to begin their political training at an early age. Voting at 18 would give them a peep into the policies of the alternative parties and hopefully make an informed choice.

Increased voter turnout
When 18 year old are allowed to vote, it stands to reason that it would increase the voter turn-out than when the voting age is pegged at 21. According to indexmundi Ghana’s demographic profile for 2018 indicates that the age brackets of 15-24 constitute 18.3% of the entire population. If people who are 18 years are allowed to vote, the percentage of people who vote would definitely go up than if only those 21 years above are allowed to vote.

Duplication of parents’ votes
One of the disadvantages of reducing the voting age to 18 is that it would result in the duplication of the opinions of their parents and or people they trust. This is because from an early age children start to trust first their parents and then later their teachers and other adults around them. They are yet to decipher the import of the advertisement they see on television or on the internet. They may be compelled to lean on the opinions of their parents and people they trust in understanding what they see or hear in the media. If they make their choice of leaders based on what they heard from their parents, then their vote would only represent the views of their parents.

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Tendency to take unnecessary risks
Another disadvantage of voting at 18 is that a nation runs the risk of putting the wrong people in government. Studies have indicated that the people at 18 are more likely to take risks that much older people. Statistics show that teens are more likely to text while driving though they know it is risky. They are the same category of people who engage in unprotected sex though they are aware of all the negative implications. It is feared that voters at 18 can transfer this risky tendency into their voting behaviour and wish to try a government who for many reasons are not the best option for a country at a particular time.

False impression of approval
The proponents of reducing the voting age to 18 are saying it would increase the voter turnout however there is a counter argument that if the politicians see the large voter turnout they might be tempted to think it is a positive endorsement of their policy and campaign promises when this may not necessarily be so.

18 year old voters may not digest the issues well enough
The 18 year old may look physically matured but may not be politically matured to understand issues of economic and politico-social implications. For this reason, it may well be that the 18 year old nay not have assessed the policies of the politicians more dispassionately as their adult counterparts would have done. This may lead to political choices that may not reflect the issues on the ground.

1.Highlight three advantages and three disadvantages of lowering the voting age to 18.

Types of voting
The reasons why people abstain from voting

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