The Big Disconnect

Vote Oregon!In my personal experience growing up and going to school, there was a big disconnect from the instant I graduated from high school and went to college and when I graduated from college and went to work.  There was almost no continuity between graduating from either of these institutions of learning and what came next.  My education was primarily helpful in qualifying me for the next stage in life by virtue of a diploma instead of preparing me for what was to come next.  My high school diploma permitted me to go to college and my college diploma got me my first job.  I could say the same thing about voting and engaging with various levels of government.  I studied U.S. government, history, and civics but little of what I studied helped me to vote much later in life so when I graduated from high school and college I didn’t register to vote until later.

I feel this big disconnect between my education and what followed in real life was true in about 80% of everything I learned and eventually forgot, especially with my lack of early engagement in the voting process.  It wasn’t until I was in my early 30’s that I registered to vote and I didn’t vote regularly until I was almost 40.  I think this part of my story isn’t unusual.  However after having kids I started getting involved in local elections to improve the schools for my children.  That is also when I started regularly getting involved in local, regional, state, and national elections and issues.

I am convinced that it is because of this big disconnect after graduating from high school that most of America’s youth of voting age do not vote or even register to vote.  Young voters account for only a small block of voters in any election so their vote has little effect upon the outcome of most elections.  The problem is that the voting age it too high.  The conventional wisdom for this is that very young voters are not mature and experienced enough to vote responsibly so must not have the right to vote.  But I would argue that many older voters are easily swayed by political ads and inadequately engaged in political issues so are not responsible enough to vote maturely yet they have the right to vote.  The proof of this is the ineptness of Congress consisting of officials we adults have elected.  So which is worst, immaturity or irresponsibility?  Since voting is a right instead of a privilege why can’t our children have the right to vote at an earlier age as citizens?

I say let us lower the voting age to maybe 15.  Then let us teach our children about voting and how their vote counts.  After all many of the issues that Congress is working on today will affect our children in the future.  Our children also fight wars before they can vote.  So there are many reasons why they should have a say in government because it is their lives that will later be most impacted.  Let them discuss and engage in political issues and debates while in school and when they reach the age of 15 let them register to vote and take part in the election process while still in school.  Starting them out early in the voting process while in school removes the voting and political disconnect they currently experience upon graduating and makes the entire political process more relevant.  So when they leave high school into adulthood voting will seem as natural as driving.  Since minorities and the poor will also go through this process while in school they will likely continue voting into adulthood resulting in better representation in government for them to improve their quality of life and standard of living.

Perhaps if the voting age were lower our government would have to pay more attention to the young as well as minority and poor voters.  Perhaps elections will be more representative of all the people since most citizens will vote regularly and less about big business which cannot yet vote.  Perhaps our government will be much different in a better way than it is today.  After all it couldn’t get much worst than it already is especially if far more people are engaged in the political process, right?  Isn’t that what our government should be all about, serving most of the people all of the time?

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