Election 2020

Actor: Tech-Savvy Teens Prove 16-Year-Olds Have Capacity to Vote

Voters fill out ballots Nov. 6, 2018, in Ridgeland, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

WASHINGTON – Former NAACP President Ben Jealous, who ran for governor of Maryland in November, said he is “totally open” to lowering the voting age 16 for national elections, as the District of Columbia City Council is considering.

“We need more young people voting – anything that turns them out,” Jealous told PJM at a campaign rally shortly before the election.

Actress Rosario Dawson, co-founder of Voto Latino, said she hadn’t heard of the proposal to lower the voting age in Washington, D.C., but would look into the issue.

“I have no idea because I haven’t read anything about it so I would have to understand what the argument and everything is first,” she replied during an interview at the rally with Jealous in Silver Spring, Md.

Dawson also expressed an interested in running for public office one day.

“Definitely in local government,” she said.

In response to 16-year-olds possibly voting in national elections in Washington, comedian Dave Chappelle, who grew up in the district, said, “Yeah, I hope something gets everyone more involved in the political process.”

Actor Keegan Allen, author of Hollywood: Photos and Stories from Foreverland, endorsed lowering the voting age to 16, saying it is “absolutely” a good idea.

“If you give someone that responsibility they will rise to the occasion. It’s like handing someone the keys to a car, of course there are some people that are going to crash the car but 9 times out of 10 someone is going to be like, ‘Oh my God, this is a lot of responsibility, you know, I want to make sure I don’t crash this car, the car being the United States of America,’” said Allen, star of the ABC show Pretty Little Liars, during an interview.

“I think that’s a great idea. I think giving the power to a generation that normally would have no power and just have to sit at a dinner table and like listen to the emotional fodder of their parents, they actually can go out and make a difference themselves,” he added.

Allen, a Hollywood native, added that “it’s always the younger generation that has a bigger capacity for learning.”

“I was on the plane just yesterday and there’s a kid that’s like 4 years old, 3 years old, playing Minecraft and he was like building a full civilization,” he said. “I’m in my 30s and I could never even understand how to do that and if you give – there’s kids on iPads,” he said.

“People are giving their kids phones. You should give them the choice to vote then, too. They can do their research. People don’t give kids enough credit that they’re actually smarter than they let on. I remember when I was 16 people thought I was like dumb. I knew more about stuff than people let on and a lot of my friends did, too,” he added.

Allen continued, “I feel like most of the time it’s a cop-out from an older generation that might not want that kind of power given to someone else. It just feels a little like a little bit of a missed opportunity. Hopefully it does pass. I think it would be great. It would get a lot more people involved in politics and it wouldn’t be so daunting when you turn 18.”

Some voters are not supportive of the idea to lower the voting age to allow 16-year-olds to vote.

“To me, it’s too young,” Vana, who was visiting D.C. from Boston, told PJM during an interview. “What do you know at 16 about voting and responsibilities? I don’t think they know.”

Vana’s friend Martine said 16 years of age is not old enough to vote.

“I think they will just vote based on what other people say,” she said.

Diana, a D.C. resident, said she thinks the voting age should be lowered in D.C. for national elections.

“I think it would be OK but there would have to be an effort to educate students and to make sure they have all the information they have to make choices,” she said. “Fundamentally, what happens in politics affects them and their future so I do agree that they should be allowed to vote.”

Tamira, a 17-year-old living in D.C., told PJM she should be able to vote.

“Yes, everybody should have a chance to do everything, like, it shouldn’t just to be based on adults,” she said.

Max, a 15-year-old from Northern Virginia, also said 16 should be the new legal voting age.

“It is kind of a good idea because they have their own interests, too, and I feel like a lot of people would want to hear that,” he said. “Maybe more people want to be in politics when they grow up.”

Erin, who visited the district from Texas, told PJM she would support lowering the voting age.

“I guess yes. My only argument would be that some may not be informed enough – but you could say not all adults are informed enough to vote so, I guess, yes,” she replied.