One Way To End Child Abuse: Drop the Voting Age to Zero
To deny suffrage to kids is to deny their stake in their future.
I’ve noticed that in America, we have an interesting concept of the term, “stakeholder” where the term includes only those with the right of suffrage. If you can vote on it, you’re a stakeholder. If you own stock in a company, you’re a stakeholder. If you have money or, “skin in the game”, you’re a stakeholder. If you don’t have a voice in the matter, you’re not a stakeholder.
It seems to me that on the matter of child abuse, children are not seen as stakeholders, for if they were, they’d be given the opportunity to vote. If kids could vote, how long do you think Jeffrey Epstein would have been a free man? How long do you think the infamous Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys would have lasted? Maybe a few days. If we had a long-standing tradition of letting kids vote, I bet we’d see a more civilized and empathetic culture in America.
But judging by some recent polling, most adults are very much against the idea of lowering the voting age to 16, let alone zero. A Harris poll conducted in May of 2019 and reported by The Hill found Americans overwhelmingly opposed to lowering the voting age to 16.
“The survey found that 75 percent of registered voters opposed allowing 17-year-olds to participate in elections. An even larger number, 84 percent, opposed allowing 16-year-olds to vote.”
I note with interest that the people who were asked about lowering the voting age to 17 to 16, were 18 and over. The people with the most interest in voting, but could not vote, were not even asked if they think the voting age should be lowered. I guess people who are not allowed to vote are not stakeholders.
I also note from reading the Hill article that opposition to lowering the voting age was stronger with Republicans and older people than with younger people and Democrats. Opposition to lowering the voting age approached 90% among self-identified Republicans but was much lower among Democrats. I had no idea that the disenfranchisement of kids was so popular. Maybe they think that raising kids is socialist, and socialism is bad.
Take one look at the news and we can see that kids are stakeholders. They have a right to be concerned about people like Jeffrey Epstein and his friends. Kids have a right to be concerned about whether they’re going to school or not during a pandemic. Kids have a right to be concerned about climate change, pollution, and automation. Kids are stakeholders.
Children don’t let other children go hungry. I’ve seen this over and over again. A toddler with food will share his food with a hungry toddler. A toddler will share her toys. A toddler will play with anyone who wants to play.
Informed children won’t allow for war once they know what war is about. They will vote against war. They will vote against the worst sins of capitalism. They will vote for justice. They will hold adults accountable for their mistakes, just as their parents do to them.
Voting is about aggregating interests. It’s about all of us deciding what we want to do together. The problem is, its easier to do something to someone else if they can’t vote. And that’s where I see the base of opposition to letting younger people vote.
Adults like to say that younger people are not informed on the issues. They’d rather watch cartoons than try to figure out what the adults are doing. I think that if kids knew that they have the right to vote, that they’d become informed on the issues. They’d read more often because they have the power to vote. Kids would want to know how to use their vote. They’d talk with each other about the issues of the day and come up with a consensus. I think some adults are very much afraid that their kids won’t vote the way they vote. I can see how that would be a problem for some adults.
Some parents think their kids should be just like them. Here’s the problem with that thinking: life evolves. That’s how we survive as a species. The conditions that support life change over time. We must adapt if we want to survive. We have been changing the planet with our activity, so we must adapt to the changes we impose on the planet, whether we planned for those changes or not. I don't want my kids to think exactly like me. I’m already obsolete. I want my kids to have a chance to survive and reproduce, and my way of thinking may not suit them.
Kids are very adaptable. They can handle change much better than adults, especially if adults model adaptation well. If adults get upset over unmet expectations, so will their kids. If adults are calm when dealing with change, their kids will be calm in response to change, too. Huh. I bet giving kids the right to vote might make adults a bit more circumspect in their behavior.
We are all human beings and we all have a stake in our future together. That’s a pretty good argument for reducing the voting age to zero. If kids started voting at an early age, they get familiar with voting. They learn how to vote. They learn how to understand the issues. Heck, we teach kids to read at an early age. My kids were reading by the age of 3 and 4. We might see election turnouts that hit 80–90%. That’s a good thing, right?
Now I don’t expect young kids to be very good at making decisions when they’re so young. But just look at the world today. Adults made the decisions that got us here, now. I don’t see how kids could do any worse. If kids started voting at 3 or 4, by the time they’re 18, they’re going to be very good at understanding issues and voting for them. And, I would hope, they would know that they don’t have to vote the way their parents vote. I would expect by 18 years of age, kids can think and vote quite independently of their parents.
I’ve seen similar arguments made in a few articles on the subject of lowering the voting age. I have seen several good articles on the subject of lowering the voting age, and at least one made a great argument for lowering the voting age to zero. Sure, babies and toddlers would need help, but eventually, they’d maser this skill as they grow up. They’re stakeholders.
This is why I think giving kids the right to vote would be a huge step in the direction of ending child abuse. Kids would organize quickly to aggregate their interests against child abuse. They could become a powerful constituency, with enough power to hold adults accountable if they fail to stop child abuse. Kids have the greatest interest in stopping child abuse. We should give them the power to stop it. We should give them a voice in their future.