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August 3, 2007

lowering the voting age

The Michigan State House is considering a bill to allow citizens aged 17 at the time of a primary to vote if they will turn 18 on or before the general election. (To be more precise, the bill would put that proposal before the voters as a constitutional amendment.) I'm generally in favor of lowering the voting age by a year or so, because then students will become eligible to vote while they are still in high school, and voting can become part of the curriculum. They can learn the mechanics of registering and casting a ballot and also discuss issues in a moderated forum (the social studies classroom).

Eric Plutzer and others have found that voting is habitual--once someone casts a first vote, typically she continues to participate for decades. Consequently, lowering the voting age could be a way of increasing turnout, if the election became an opportunity for some basic voter education.

This is an argument for enfranchising all 17-year-olds. The Michigan proposal is more complicated and less inclusive that what I would favor, but it reflects an intuition that people who are going to be allowed to vote in a given election ought to be able to participate in the primary, as well. The bill would be a modest change, but better than nothing.

August 3, 2007 1:53 PM | category: none


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