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Dear Mr. Lyman Stone,
Your article ‘The Minimum Voting Age Should Be Zero”, published on September 1st 2021 in the New
York Times has been a thought-provoking read for me. I do however feel that it is my moral and ethical
obligation to write you this letter, opposing your viewpoint on the voting age, challenging some of your
arguments and emphasizing the risk that your voting age proposal would bring upon modern society.
In your article, you state that denying children the right to vote is based on 'irrational animus’,
and proposed a naive, utopian ‘dream’ where children are given a gradual increase in independence from
their parents via the right to vote. To display and explain why restricting children from voting is not
‘irrational animus’ but rather a rational and logical step towards a functioning society, I would like to
analogize your proposal. For instance, suppose that the drinking age would be lowered to zero. Why not?
As you mention, ‘we already trust parents in numerous far more sensitive domains’, so why shouldn’t
they be the ones to decide when a child should start experimenting with alcohol? Gradually increasing the
child’s independence towards alcohol, leads to an increase in responsibility. Indeed, the ‘logical
conclusion is obvious’ even in this field - ‘the drinking age should be zero’! Unfortunately, empirical
evidence suggests the opposite effect: lowering the drinking age leads to higher drop out rates1, more
frequent suicide attempts2, and other negative results. Lowering the drinking age could have negative
health & safety implications on the individual, but lowering the voting age could have negative health &
safety implications on society as a whole, as elected extremist parties, per se, could push for legislations
threatening millions of human lives nationwide, all because immature young voters voted for such
legislators. Conclusively, if you do not support the idea of lowering the drinking age to zero as well, how
can you possibly support lowering the voting age to zero, which has potential negative health and safety
implications on society as a whole, not just on the few individuals misusing their liberties as with the
alcohol example.
Secondly, you suggest that parents are likely to do a good job at representing their children’s
values and interests, and as evidence, you point to a study that suggests that political ideas are heritable.
The study used as evidence was published in 2009, which is over a decade ago, and technology has
drastically shaped the political landscape since then. Cambridge analytica, a data-management company,
has been accused of misusing hundreds of thousands of Facebook users data to create accurate
psychographic profiles of the users, which were then utilized to show personalized pro-trump material to
them, impacting the presidential election result and boosting election day turnout of pro-trump voters3.
This exhibits the fragility of the voters free-will, showing that hereditary political ideas and opinions can
be easily manipulated using the power of data and technology. This further marginalizes the stake that
genetics hold in political beliefs - the parents political beliefs maybe completely different to their child’s ,
just because they have a different social media feed.
Next, you mention that ‘although parents as a class will never perfectly represent their children’s
values and interests, they are likely to do a pretty good job’ - the word choice in this sentence of your
article raises major questions: how could lowering the voting age to zero be presented as an applicable
government policy? You use the word ‘represent’ suggesting that until a certain age, parents are fully
responsible for casting their child’s ballot. Further you state that ‘[children are] likely [to vote for
themselves] in their teen years’. The ambiguous wording of ‘likely’, exhibits that there is no defined age
for when children take full responsibility for casting their ballots. What would the approach be of the
supreme court, per se, if they came across a case where a child is suing their parents for casting their vote
for them against their will. Yet, the parents argue that they are - as you mention - ‘representing their
children’s values and interests to the best of their ability’. Later in the article, you hypocritically complain
that teenage children are given the illusion of responsibility, and are expected to act as adults but are
actually ‘devoid[ed] of serious responsibility’. Giving the parent the obligation to cast a vote for their
child and the right to chose the level of say their children can have for their own vote, perfectly displays a
lack of independence of the child, something, that you argue has created ‘generations of narcissists’. Let
me ask you, how is your concept different, and how does it give the child any ‘serious responsibility’? I
would also like to remind you, that setting a clear legal boundary - such as: parents should represent their
child’s interests until the age of 12, and at the age of 12 the child should gain full responsibility for the
vote - still preserves, as you mention, ‘the underlying franchise to the smart and the rich’. Your proposal
has ambiguous wording, potential to be misused as an extra vote for the parent and has many legal
question marks. In detail analysis of your remarks also shows that the proposal of lowering the voting age
to zero is hypocritical in many areas, and displays absolutely no positive effect for modern society.
Lastly, in your article you argue that people with disabilities such as not being able to move,
walk, see or think complexly are allowed to vote, yet children are not allowed to vote - practically
because they for instance cannot talk or walk yet. The major difference between these demographic
groups is experience. A disabled person with the right to vote, has more than 18 years of practical, reallife experience on this planet, whereas a child has much less. Additionally, the cognitive impairment of
disabled person is most often very different to the cognition of a child. You also state that ‘IQ tests would
be plainly unconstitutional’, this is irrelevant because an adults’ intrinsic right to vote is based upon the
amount of experience on the world they have, not the ability to interpret and evaluate those experiences.
In conclusion, I would like to come back to my analogy with the drinking age and ask a simple,
yet important question. Do we really want to lower the drinking age to zero? I have displayed how nonsensical the proposal of lowering the voting age is, when analyzed in detail. It’s delusional basis of
granting a child ‘serious responsibility’ is plainly impossible and would not work. I do however believe
that it is necessary to continue to search for ways to increase voter tun-out rates, but your proposal is a
flawed solution. So, let me ask again, clearly: Do we really want to lower the voting age to zero?
Yours sincerely,
Sebastian Kot
1 (accessed 27.10.21)
(accessed on 27.10.21)
2 (accessed on 27.10.21)