Friday, May 23, 2008

Should Kids Vote?

No, really. Stop giggling. It's a legitimate question, one that even had a journal article based on the premise.

I said stop giggling.

The author of the article in the International Journal of Children's Rights wrote:

"If democracy works well with a large number of adult voters with little or no knowledge of politics, it should also work with children voting."

As the father of two teenagers, two really smart teenagers, I have to say this idea deserves to be immediately trampled, squashed, spindled and mutilated. And then I'd do bad things to it, like make it watch American Idol.

But let's think about the basic idea, which seems to be that young people probably don't know a lot less than their adult counterparts. The fallacy here is that political knowledge is a valid measurement of the right to vote. Those days are long gone, at least in the U.S. Poll taxes and tests to cast your ballot are a thing of the Jim Crow South, not today. It's not political knowledge that is of issue here, nor even political competence (lots of numbskulls prove their numbskullery by voting opposite of me), but rather its a matter of combining experience and competence and knowledge and all the other things that go into play.

I'm not saying many adults who do vote have a clue, but we do not want to double or triple the number of uninformed voters by letting 16 year olds get in the ballot box and start pushing buttons, thinking it's an Xbox or way to access MySpace.

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