Upending decades of political tradition is clearly provocative, and the council should proceed carefully in deciding whether to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local and federal elections. A case could be made that 16-year-olds lack the life experience to make informed choices. But we think a more compelling argument can be made in favor of lowering the voting age as a measure that could encourage lifelong civic engagement.
The best predictor of whether someone will vote is whether they voted previously, and research suggests that 18 — a time of disruption and transition away from home and into the workforce or college — is not an optimum time to get young people into the habit. High school, said Joshua A. Douglas, a law professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law who has studied this issue, provides a more supportive environment, especially when twinned with improvements in civic education. He said there is no difference between the cognitive brain development of a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old; they are both capable of the reasoned, deliberate decision-making involved in voting.