() — The Boston City Council has voted to lower the voting age to 16 for local elections.
The measure must go to the Massachusetts state legislature for approval. Boston wouldn’t be the first city to make such a decision. Oakland, California and Takoma Park, Maryland both allow 16-year-olds to vote in local races.
Some states also allow teens to vote in primaries and caucuses at age 17, as long as they turn 18 before the general election.
Larry Tribe, professor emeritus of Harvard University Law School, told he believes teens are as well-equipped as adults to vote in elections.
“As a matter of political philosophy, there is no justification for not letting 16-year-olds vote. They are powerfully affected by the policies that government adopts,” Tribe said.
Opponents fear teens will make voting choices based on peer pressure, but Tribe said that thanks in part to the internet, today’s teens are more informed and mature than previous generations.
“They tend to be quite knowledgeable, they’re very active, they’re energetic, and people mature earlier these days,” he said.
The current voting age of 18 was historically linked to the military draft, under the justification that if someone is old enough to die for their country, they are old enough to have a voice in the political process.
“It seems to me that even though we don’t have a draft, but if we did, we might not draft 16-year-olds, that doesn’t mean that we should silence them and exclude them from active politics,” Tribe said.
As for arguments that a lower voting age would favor one party over the other, Tribe cautioned against stereotypes, noting that young people hold views across the political spectrum.
“It seems to me that we can’t take a temperature of where we think a generation will be ideologically and use that as our basis for either favoring or opposing their full political participation. They are full citizens of this country,” he said.