State Rep. introduces bill to lower Missouri voting age to 16


Derek Wang

Democratic Rep. Karla May of Missouri District 84, located in St. Louis, proposed a bill that would lower the voting age in Missouri to 16 years old in December.
If the bill becomes law, current freshmen could vote in the 2016 presidential election. With the bill, May hopes to inspire increased youth involvement in their government in order for them to have a greater say in making the laws that apply to them.
“I think that this is a huge voting population that is a working population, that I believe understand government enough to be included and have a vote,” May said. “Right now in our state, students take the Missouri Constitution and U.S. Constitution tests which have to be passed before they graduate. [The bill] is allowing those young people the opportunity to participate and I think that it is a good idea to start participation early.”
However, Civic Studies teacher Scott Wittenborn is skeptical that the bill would change the amount of youth involvement in politics. Wittenborn said that not enough of the people who are able to vote right now participate enough for the bill to make a big difference.
“I’m not sure that it would [do anything],” Wittenborn said. “18-year-olds can vote, and I’m not sure that right has really affected them very much. I do believe that students would be more inclined to participate in our government, and I believe this would align well with how they take their government class early in their high school career. I would hope that young kids would care more about politics if they were given more of a voice.”
Freshman Dalton Nunamaker said he thinks the number of young voters will stay relatively the same, with only a low percentage of 16-year-olds actually voting because of a lack of education or transportation.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 21.2 percent of the citizens between ages 18 to 29 participated in the 2012 election and voted, compared to 35.6 percent of citizens between ages 45 to 64. Nunamaker said that although he himself would take advantage of the bill and vote if it was passed, he isn’t sure if it is a good idea.
“I think that a lot of teenagers are very misinformed about things and not really involved enough,” Nunamaker said. “They haven’t had enough time to mature in order to formulate their views and what they really think. I think a lot of people would regret some votes they made. We just don’t know enough. Of course, some people do, but a lot of us don’t.”
Wittenborn said currently, most 18-year-olds do not actively participate in the government and vote. By lowering the age limit, there would merely be an influx of even more uneducated voters. However, Wittenborn said that 16-year-olds being able to vote would not only allow them to get involved with their government, but it would also help with their education.
“We currently already try to emphasize political involvement and educated voting quite a bit, but this task would be much easier if kids were able to actually go out and vote,” Wittenborn said. “I think we would benefit a lot teaching these concepts when an election was taking place.”
Junior Mirnes Mustafic believes even with the right to vote, many 16-year-olds would not even think about heading to the ballot box. He said teenagers not only are not educated enough to make a serious decision on who to vote for, but also have different priorities. Mustafic said if he had been able to vote when he was 16, he would have ignored the opportunity and instead looked for a job.
“I don’t think 16-year-olds will take that responsibility to themselves and go out and vote,” Mustafic said. “They have more important things to do, like having a job.”
Wittenborn believes there would be more interest in politics among the youth if they were allowed to vote. However, Wittenborn said the legal voting age is fine just how it is.
“I believe that keeping the voting age at 18 makes the most sense as it is a big transitional age for most as they leave high school, and enter the world much more on their own,” Wittenborn said.
May hopes that the bill will promote the revision of outdated laws that involve the youth community. She said that much of the youth population is unaware of many laws that apply to them.
“The main purpose is to try to get more involvement from the youth so they can actually help adjust and give ideas for the laws that govern them and also to change some of the laws and make them more relevant,” May said.
By Derek Wang
Art by Maddy Mueller