Bursting the Irvine Bubble: Sixteen and Voting?

Legislation passed in Argentina earlier this week that dropped the required voting age from 18 to 16. As a first-time voter in this year’s US election, this idea horrifies me. I am 21 years old, and, personally, I could not have imagined being well-educated enough to vote at an age when I was still learning how to drive. There are too many responsibilities for the teenage mind. If you are 16 and reading this, and think, “Hey, that’s mean. I’m smart.” Just remember, the MTV show isn’t called, “Twenty-One and Pregnant.”

To my shock, this bit of legislation was passed in the Senate with 131 approvals, 2 disapprovals and 1 abstention. With this new law, 1.5 million hormone-raging teens will be added to the voter audience.

No one still going through puberty should be making decisions that can affect the law. Sixteen-year-olds are awkward, and even the confident ones are awkward, because what do you have to be confident about at sixteen? Your well-established personality and understanding of self-worth?

In high school, I was rather active in politics. I spent two years participating in Youth & Government, a program run by the YMCA that gathers high-schoolers from around California to participate in mock government at the state’s capital. I was also involved in teaching fifth graders the basics of American politics through a program titled “Democracy in Action.” However, I am glad no one gave me the power to vote at such an age. Although I was aware and conscious about my political surroundings, many other people my age weren’t.

I am forgetting, however, that Argentina really is different from the US. For example, between the ages of 18 and 70, voting is mandatory. There is a good chance that the citizens of the country could take voting seriously. However, the people could be even lazier and more disinterested about voting because it is obligatory.

Those in favor of dropping the age requirement say that since one of the greatest social problems the nation has is the youth, naturally, the youth can help fix it. Argentina struggles with high rates of teen pregnancy, high rates of drug use and little education. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that education is important and should be factored as necessary for any voter.

I do not by any stretch of the imagination think there are no young people who aren’t smarter than some adults.
But if the youth is the problem, what makes the Argentinean government so sure that they are interested enough to get involved with politics outside of simply being forced? Anyone can perform the act of voting. You punch a hole in a card or mark it with some ink. That isn’t complex. Knowing what you are voting for is the key; keys that can either open or close important doors. Why is Argentina so eager to assume that the nation’s youth has the power, will or capacity to have a good set of keys?

Cleo Tobbi is a fourth-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at ctobbi@uci.edu.