Despite this past practice, Katzenbach v. Morgan and other Supreme Court decisions have shown that these particular amendments in no way limit Congress` constitutional power to lower the voting age by law if Congress so wishes. Critics of lowering the voting age argue that citizens under the age of 18 have less motivation and ability to engage in politics than older citizens. We test this by examining three measures widely used in the literature to capture these concepts (e.g., Fieldhouse et al., 2007): interest, knowledge, and non-electoral participation. We look directly at the quality of the election, although this is, of course, a difficult concept to evaluate. We operationalize it as an ideological congruence between voters and the party they want to vote: the greater the ideological similarity between a voter and the party he chooses, the higher the quality of the voting decision. This is a simplified approximation of the conventional operationalization of “correct voting”, which uses measures of voter preferences on a range of different questions to distinguish candidates or competing parties, as well as some reasonable objective measures (e.g., expert judgments) when candidates actually stand on the same issues (e.g., Lau and Redlawsk, 1997; Lau et al., 2008).18 Although we do not have such detailed measures, we believe that our simplified approach provides a good indication of whether voters are voting for a party that is relatively close to them ideologically. It is clear to me that there is such a basis. First, Congress could reasonably conclude that lowering the voting age to 18 is necessary to eliminate the very real discrimination that exists against the nation`s youth in the public services they receive. By lowering the voting age to 18, we can enable young Americans to improve their social and political standing, just as the Supreme Court in the Morgan case accepted the congressional rule that Puerto Ricans would be eligible to vote in New York would give them a role in influencing laws and protecting and influencing them.
Lowering the voting age is a new concept for many people, but there are many good reasons to show that it is a sensible and ethical decision. Finally, our study leaves many questions for future research. A particularly important issue – especially in light of our results in the 18-21 age group – is the existence of a voting habit among adolescents (Franklin, 2004). In particular, it may be easier to teach the habit of voting to those who are still in school and living at home. However, adherence to a custom requires longer-term data, and citizens under the age of 18 have only had the right to vote in Austria for four years and in a regional election. We hope that future research will examine whether today`s teens are more likely to develop a habit of voting than citizens who were able to vote for the first time at an older age. In this article, we test whether these reviews are right. Are young people under the age of 18 less able and motivated to participate effectively in political life? And do these factors influence whether and how they exercise their right to vote? If the answer to these questions is yes, lowering the voting age could indeed have negative consequences for the health of democracy. If the answer is no, then critics probably have fewer arguments as to why we should be against lowering the voting age. Instead, we could consider the possible positive consequences of reform, such as linking young people to the democratic process, encouraging the development of voting habits and ensuring that their interests are represented. Finally, it is worth drawing attention to the fact that the same constitutional arguments that I have made here in favour of legislation to lower the voting age must also be advanced by the proponents, including the administration, of the House of Representatives` voting rights bill if they are to justify two of the bill`s most important provisions: Austria is the only country in Europe that is of voting age at 16 for national elections.9 The reform was adopted by the Austrian Parliament in 2007 and since then young people under the age of 18 have voted in a number of elections, including for the national parliament in 2008, the European Parliament in 2009 and presidential elections in 2010.
For the first time, Austria offers the opportunity to examine the political participation of under-18s in a national election, at least in a stable and advanced industrial democracy. The specific data used in this article come from a pre-electoral survey (n = 805) conducted in late May and early June 2009, i.e. in the weeks immediately preceding the European elections (Kritzinger and Heinrich, 2009).10 voters aged 16 to 25 were overestimated for this survey (n = 263), making this set particularly suitable for our research questions. We use the overrated segment of Austrian voters to compare 16- and 17-year-olds with voters aged 18-21, 22-25, 26- and 30-year-olds, and voters over 31.11 The lower turnout rate of citizens under 18 does not automatically indicate that this trend is due to lower ability and motivation to participate. This decision may be based on other grounds. First, young voters may favour new forms of political participation over traditional forms of electoral participation (Topf, 1995b) by “bypassing electoral channels” (Franklin, 2002: 165). Voter turnout is not the only way to establish a democratic link between citizens and the political system (e.g., Topf, 1995b; Franklin, 2002; Fuchs and Klingemann, 1995; Dalton, 2009). Young voters are particularly likely to choose other forms of participation because of longer school years, other forms of informal political education, higher levels of information, new channels of information and a decline in political affiliation (e.g. Thomassen, 2005). Second, younger voters may simply view the vote itself as a less civic duty (e.g., Blais, 2000; Dalton, 2009; Wattenberg, 2008). They may have a more individual calculation of the benefits of voting and rely more on assessing the significance of electoral outcomes (Thomassen, 2005).6 Therefore, it is not enough to analyze voter turnout rates per se to get a good picture of the state of input legitimacy, as we must also consider the underlying motives. In other words, we need to know whether citizens under the age of 18 are not voting because of a reduced ability and motivation to participate effectively.