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A fundamental American value is that tax paying citizens have a right to have a voice in who and how their taxes are being spent. On a different level, it is a Missourian value that our citizens get a say in their taxes; most notably being that Missourians get to vote on any increases to their taxes via a ballot referendum. 16- and 17-year-olds, from all sorts of industries from agriculture to retail, pay millions of dollars (combined) in local, state, and federal taxes each year. American conservative principles should cringe at this fact. Building trust in our elected officials requires our elected officials to acknowledge tax paying citizens should be able to participate, in some fashion, on how their tax dollars are being spent.

According to dated reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half of 16- and-17-year-olds are officially employed in the U.S. More recently, the Department of Labor reports that child labor has increased by nearly 70% since 2018. While there is no data looking into the specific numbers regarding how many teens are employed in Missouri, using the information provided in reports from the U.S. Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Urban Institute’s State Fiscal Briefs, we can deduce that Missouri 16- and 17-year-olds pay at least $12,000,000 combined in local, state, and federal taxes each year. Realistically speaking, the amount is likely significantly higher than what can be conclusively estimated via these reports. 

Cynics of lowering the voting age in municipal elections argue that this demographic somehow does not pay “enough” in taxes to trigger the need for representation. However, the quote taken directly from the Stamp Act outlines vividly and obviously that any amount of taxation, without the right to any type of representation, is an abomination according to American history and fundamental principles. 

At 16, Missouri workers begin to have very little restrictions regarding their work. As nearly unrestricted workers, both officially and unofficially employed, the legislative bodies that would be impacted by the results of Vote16MO have large implications on the jobs and career fields of 16- and 17-year-olds. 

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Lowering the voting age to 16 and 17 for nonpartisan local elections before extending this privilege to partisan elections at the state and federal levels upon turning 18 offers numerous advantages. In the existing system, young voters are thrust into the political landscape at the age of 18, but our aim is to change this paradigm. We refer to this phased approach as the "civic transition," a method that gradually introduces individuals to the electoral process, beginning at the most basic and nonpartisan level and gradually granting access to more significant elections. This approach recognizes the importance of nurturing young people's civic engagement skills and political awareness in a controlled and nonpartisan environment. One significant benefit of this approach is its provision of practical voting experience.

Leveraging Nonpartisanship:
The civic transition capitalizes on Missouri's distinctive nonpartisan local election system, where candidates' party affiliations are absent from the ballot, and partisan politics scarcely influences local elections. This unique characteristic eliminates the need for party-driven political debates at the local level, emphasizing governance, qualifications, and leadership. This feature of the system is vital for inexperienced, young voters as it minimizes the influence of partisan politics, unlike the state and federal elections that currently saturate the political landscape.

Drawing Parallels with Graduated Driver's Law:
Lowering the voting age for nonpartisan local and school board elections in Missouri mirrors the state's Graduated Driver's law. Just as young drivers progress from learners permits to full licenses, this approach allows 16- and 17-year-olds to transition into voting gradually. Just check out these similarities!

MO Graduated Driver's Program:


Vote16MO Civic Transition:

Promoting Education, Civic Responsibility, and Depolarizing Elections:
Research has demonstrated that early voting experiences can shape individuals' future political behavior (Andersen, 2007). Allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to participate in nonpartisan local elections familiarizes them with the process, underscores the importance of their engagement, and instills a voting habit. This early exposure establishes a foundation for future political involvement in partisan elections at higher levels. The civic transition takes advantage of Missouri’s unique nonpartisan local election system, which prohibits partisan politics in elections at the local level. Candidates do not have a “(D)”, “(R)”, or “(I)” next to their name on the ballot. Residents rarely find that municipal candidates even mention their political party affiliation when running for local offices. Most notably, local citizens notice that municipal candidates rarely, if ever, engage in party-lined political debates. 

Furthermore, voting in nonpartisan local elections instills a sense of community and civic responsibility. These elections often revolve around issues directly affecting individuals' daily lives, like education and infrastructure. Empowering young people to influence such decisions fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility and encourages them to become informed and engaged citizens.

Moreover, nonpartisan local elections serve as a steppingstone for young people to enhance their political knowledge and understand the political system. Focusing on local issues rather than partisan ideologies, these elections are more accessible and less polarizing for young voters. This fosters learning, discussion, and critical thinking, preparing 16- and 17-year-olds for participation in partisan elections.

In essence, the civic transition recognizes the value of an educated and experienced electorate and actively cultivates it from an early stage. By allowing young people to gain practical experience and gradually expand their civic involvement, we foster an informed and engaged citizenry capable of addressing the challenges facing our republic.

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Reducing the voting age in a small yet impactful manner holds the potential to revolutionize civics education in Missouri. The "Learning by Doing" educational philosophy, widely endorsed by leading universities in Missouri, emphasizes the correlation between practicing a skill and one's proficiency in executing it. This principle can be aptly applied to voting. Presently, Missouri's educational standards allocate a mere one to two weeks for students to learn about municipal government and a similar duration for understanding voting before moving on to the next subject. Consequently, Missouri students are tasked with retaining this knowledge for up to three years before they can practically apply it.

Lowering the voting age to 16 for local and school board elections can significantly enhance political knowledge. Research indicates that levels of political knowledge directly influence political engagement and participation. However, despite increased educational attainment, political knowledge has remained stagnant. Traditional classroom-based civic education has been effective in boosting political knowledge. Allowing 16-year-olds to vote in local and school board elections can make them direct stakeholders in the political process, motivating them to delve into civics and political issues. A significant majority of educators concur that "education is better when it's authentic."

To illustrate, Jeff Chazen, a civics teacher with extensive experience in the Parkway School District, emphasizes the potential impact of Vote16MO from a high school civics teacher's perspective. Allowing students to vote immediately, rather than saying, "This is something you can look forward to doing in a year or two," would render the curriculum more pertinent to their daily lives and make their lessons on this crucial topic more meaningful.

Moreover, lowering the voting age can positively affect school performance. Research demonstrates that citizen involvement in local education policy-making, such as through school board elections, can influence educational performance. Allowing 16-year-olds to vote in school board elections would grant them a direct voice in decisions affecting their education, fostering a sense of ownership and responsibility, and potentially leading to enhanced academic performance.

To ensure the success of lowering the voting age, it is imperative to equip young people with the necessary skills and knowledge to engage effectively in the electoral process. Civic education campaigns and active community involvement, including schools, play pivotal roles in fostering greater civic engagement and youth participation in our participatory republic. These campaigns should focus on promoting young people's awareness of their capacity to contribute to society through voting and supporting their intrinsic motivations to vote.

Maintaining the current system does a disservice to civics education, municipal government, and the future of civic engagement in our nation. Lowering the voting age in these elections reinforces the principles of government's importance at all levels, from local to federal, civic engagement's significance, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a constitutional republic.

Research underscores that hands-on political education, including the right to vote, participation in candidate forums or debates, and candidate and issue research, can equip teenagers with the necessary political knowledge and ideological insights to become "competent voters." Thus, providing political education represents an alternative means to mitigate the risks associated with immature voters among the adult demographic.

In conclusion, reducing the voting age to 16 for local and school board elections has the potential to bolster civics education in Missouri. It offers young people a direct stake in the political process, motivates them to learn about civics, and cultivates a habit of voting from a young age. By participating in elections, young people can develop a sense of ownership and responsibility for their education and contribute to improved school performance. Civic education campaigns and community involvement are indispensable in supporting young people's participation and ensuring their effective engagement in the electoral process.

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Teenagers aged 16-17 play a substantial role in their communities, and it is therefore only fair to extend voting rights to them in local and school board elections within Missouri. This recognition is based on their capability to actively contribute to decisions that directly impact their lives and education.

At the age of 16, young people are entrusted with significant responsibilities. They can operate vehicles, including cars, motorcycles, and boats. They can even obtain a private pilot's license, travel domestically and internationally, own a business, seek emancipation, be held criminally responsible for violations of the law, engage in the workforce and pay taxes, own firearms, and even join the military (with parental consent at age 17). These responsibilities highlight their active stake in the policies enacted within their community. Astonishingly, the current system permits such responsibilities but falls short when it comes to voting in local and nonpartisan elections.

These youths are already deeply involved in their communities. Research indicates that they participate in political activities, gather political information, and express enthusiasm for political events. Enabling them to vote would not only align with their existing engagement but also furnish them with a formal avenue to articulate their opinions and preferences. By integrating them into the electoral process, their voices and viewpoints can be represented, ultimately leading to a more representative republic.

Furthermore, young individuals aged 16-17 are directly impacted by decisions arising from local and school board elections. Local policies and school board determinations exert a tangible influence on their education, extracurricular activities, and overall well-being. Granting them voting rights in these elections empowers them to influence policies and resolutions that directly mold their lives. This engagement can instill a sense of ownership, empowerment, and encourage them to become more informed and involved citizens.

Additionally, research indicates that youth involvement in socio-economic activities can help mitigate restiveness among young individuals and have positive effects on community development. Permitting 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in local and school board elections can be viewed as a form of socio-economic involvement, providing them with a platform to actively contribute to shaping their communities. By involving them in the democratic process, we can address restiveness and promote sustainable community development.

In summary, 16- and 17-year-old youth are invested in their communities and should be eligible to vote in local and school board elections within Missouri. Granting them this right acknowledges their capacity for civic engagement, empowers them to participate in decisions directly affecting their lives, and nurtures a sense of ownership and responsibility. By including them in the democratic process, we can nurture an informed and engaged citizenry, thereby ensuring a more  representative republic.

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Lowering the voting age for local and school board elections to 16 has the potential to significantly enhance civic engagement rates and voter turnout in Missouri's local elections. This transformative shift empowers young individuals, encouraging their active participation in the democratic process, ultimately resulting in a more inclusive and representative republic.

Missouri's local elections currently suffer from alarmingly low voter turnout rates, ranging from less than 1% to a high of 18%. These dismally low turnout figures erode the fundamental principles of creating a truly representative constituency.

Research has consistently demonstrated that lowering the voting age can have a positive impact on civic engagement and political participation among young people. Studies reveal that early voting experiences shape individuals' future political behavior and engagement. Allowing 16-year-olds to vote in local and school board elections provides them with the opportunity to establish a voting habit and become more engaged citizens. This early exposure to voting fosters a sense of civic responsibility and encourages young people to participate in future elections.

Research from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (C.I.R.C.L.E) highlights that individuals who vote in one election are more than 30% more likely to vote in the next, and those who vote in two or more consecutive elections are over 60% more likely to develop the habit of voting. Youth voters aged 16-17 would have the chance to participate in two or more consecutive elections before reaching the age of 18, simply by engaging in a municipal primary and general election.

Concrete results from Takoma Park, MD, demonstrate how lowering the voting age in local and school board elections can lead to a remarkable increase in voter turnout, such as soaring from 3% to an impressive 49.77% turnout.

International research, as exemplified in Austria, where the voting age was lowered nationally to 16, has also shown a "first-time voting boost" among 16- to 25-year-olds. Contrary to the assumption that 16- and 17-year-olds lack political interest, research reveals their capacity for political engagement and election participation. Lowering the voting age nurtures a habit of voting at a young age, resulting in sustained civic engagement.

Moreover, 16- and 17-year-olds are more likely to reside at home and attend school, providing a supportive social context for their electoral participation. This addresses one of the significant factors contributing to low voter turnout rates, which is the instability of young adulthood that coincides with the age of 18. At this stage, many young people are occupied with the challenges of early adulthood, such as moving away for college. Research indicates that 16- and 17-year-olds benefit from the support of their schools in learning about voter registration and creating a voting plan. Schools can also host School Board Candidate Forums, further bolstering informed participation.

Additionally, research underscores that low voter turnout is associated with policies favoring privileged voters over marginalized nonvoters. By lowering the voting age and increasing voter turnout rates, we can address this inequality in political representation. Young people, particularly those from marginalized communities, would have a more substantial opportunity to have their voices heard and influence policy decisions.

In essence, lowering the voting age in local and school board elections to 16 has the potential to elevate civic engagement rates and voter turnout rates in Missouri's local elections. Empowering young people and involving them in the democratic process at an earlier age fosters civic responsibility, increases overall voter turnout, and addresses inequalities in political representation. This change would be a significant step toward creating a more inclusive and representative republic in Missouri.

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