The German city-state of Bremen has just lowered the voting age to 16. Austria, Nicaragua, Brazil, Ecuador, Hungary, Slovenia, and Norway already allow 16-year-olds to vote in certain circumstances, according to Votes at 16, an organization that advocates the lowering of the voting age.

The US state of California has tried but failed to lower the voting age to 16.  Efforts in the UK also similarly flopped. 

Movements to lower the voting age to 13 gained even less traction.

The desire for enfranchisement is easy to understand. It’s the original motivation for overthrowing dictatorships and founding democracy. Decades ago, it’s why women and minorities fought hard to get it.

It’s also the basis of the 26th amendment of the United States, which lowered the voting age to 18 for the entire country.

The rationale was that if 18-year-olds can be drafted by the US army and possibly die in armed conflict, they should certainly be able to vote and influence politics, including political decisions regarding wars.

A slogan for the ‘Vote at 18’ campaign was old enough to fight, old enough to vote.”

The minimum voting age, in some ways, also acts as a ceiling for other age limits. In the US, the age for (sexual) consent and criminal responsibility varies from state to state, but they’re never above 18. (The minimum drinking age is 21, but it took a national law to accomplish this exception.)

Therefore, if the voting age is lowered to 16, or even 13, then many states may push down their age for criminal responsibility and consent to conform to the voting age ceiling.

The issue of consent is particularly important because it extends beyond consensual sex; in prostitution and rape allegations, if sexual contact is proven and the victim is a minor, the perpetrator is automatically guilty on statutory rape.   

The allegation of prostitution and consent then become additional charges.

Back in 1971, the US essentially decided that 18 is the upper bound for the threshold for adulthood and all that come with it. So far, it has decided that 16 is simply too low.