At a time when American political institutions are under intense criticism and facing internal and external pressures, Americans must identify opportunities for changing the status quo. Rather than reject the system as fatally flawed, Niall Guy Michelsen argues that lowering the voting age to 16 will decrease the voting gap between the college and non-college citizens. Increasing voter turnout will make the American electorate more representative of the country and add needed voices to political debates. Dr. Michelsen analyzes the nature of voting habits and concludes that too many citizens start their adult lives as non-voters and become habitual non-voters as a result. Using voter turnout data and demographics, Dr. Michelsen shows that lowering the voting age to 16 would help both college-attending and non-college-attending young adults develop voting habits and raise voter turnout.
Niall Guy Michelsen is associate professor of political science and public affairs at Western Carolina University.
Chapter One: Beginning Our Journey with a Single Question
Chapter Two: Voting, American Style
Chapter Three: Helping the Heavenly Chorus Sound Better
Chapter Four: Nurturing Lifetime Habits of Voting
Chapter Five: Getting It Done
Chapter Six: Wrapping Up
A 16-17-year old voter? A ridiculous idea that won’t add much to the system? Setting a historical context and clearly explicating pros and cons, Dr. Michelsen really gets you thinking, and in the end, I come away with a better understanding of the arguments and a more positive view toward the reform. A compelling read and an idea worth considering.
To the average reader, I suspect, allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote sounds slightly preposterous. However, in this thoughtful and well-reasoned book, the author pulls together disparate strands of research to provide a convincing argument for how lowering the voting age could strengthen our democracy.
Votes at 16: Youth Enfranchisement and the Renewal of American Democracy makes clear the importance of preparing students with the knowledge, skills and experiences to be informed and engaged citizens. It starts with a single question and provides valuable insight into how we can help nurture the lifetime habit of voting in our students. Dr. Michelsen has provided an invaluable resource for all of us who are committed to our democracy.
A generational shift is coming to America, foretelling a need for new political leaders. Yet young people are turned off by politics, often knowing very little about the basics of how to get involved. Niall Guy Michelsen’s call for lowering of the voting age to 16 as part of a broader effort to strengthen civil education and engagement is an enticing idea to prepare a new generation for political leadership and the challenges they will confront.
Votes at 16 is an important book for teachers, scholars, and policymakers who care about political participation and political equality in the United States. The book explores the theoretical arguments, and empirical evidence, used by proponents and opponents of the Votes at 16 movement and ultimately concludes that the best way to restore our democracy is to create a new kind of civics education that reaches all students, develops the habit of voting, and makes the consequences of students' actions matter in the real world. Niall Guy Michelsen has made an important contribution to the ongoing debate about the best way to increase voter turnout and develop the habit of voting among young Americans.