The spark of youth


Massachusetts state lawmakers are currently weighing a proposal that would allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote.

In other news this week, the latest viral trend among teenagers involves partially inserting an iPhone charger into a wall outlet and sliding a penny down the wall onto the exposed prongs, causing an explosion of sparks, electrical damage, and potentially fires.


In a sane state, the second story would shock some sense into legislators considering lowering the voting age. But this is Massachusetts.

The wall outlet fad has been directly linked to fires at a home in Holden and at Westford High School. A student will be charged after his participation in the social media sensation sparked a blaze at Westford Academy.

That’ll look good on his Harvard application.

I am so old that I had to wait until I was 21 to vote, and based on most of my votes back then, I should have waited at least another decade. If I had had the right to vote at age 16, I probably would have written in Jim Morrison. (Google him, kids.)

We recently passed a federal law prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21. Massachusetts passed a similar statewide law several years ago. So, we’re saying that a 20-year-old is not mature enough to handle a cigarette but his 16-year-old brother is responsible enough to vote?

We can’t keep juvenile murderers in jail because their immaturity diminishes their responsibility for their crimes. But somehow, they are responsible enough to cast a ballot?

Scientists agree that the areas of the human brain involved with judgment and decision-making are not fully developed until a person reaches his mid-twenties. But in some quarters, the only science that matters is the science that can predict the weather 50 years out.

It’s a lot easier to predict how most 16-year-olds are going to vote, as all the senators who signed on to the bill, including our own Senator Jason Lewis, are well aware.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. No one champions changing how we vote or how we conduct elections out of a sense of fair play or public good. Ever.

It’s always about gaining political advantage.

Noted Massachusetts moderate Rep. Ayanna Pressley introduced an amendment in Congress last year that would have lowered the voting age to 16 in national elections. Fortunately, reality, also known as America, intervened and the amendment went down in flames.

Most voters in Massachusetts and the US oppose letting children vote. Only 29 percent of likely Massachusetts voters support lowering the voting age to 16, with 69 percent strongly opposed. Those who were strongly opposed generally cited two reasons for their opposition:

1. They currently know a 16-year-old, or

2. They were once 16 themselves.

Can you imagine what school budgets will look like when 16 and 17-year-olds are able to vote to increase their teachers’ salaries? And where would they ever get the idea that teachers are underpaid?

We’d all be grateful if teachers could just educate their students on how not to set their schools on fire.

Bring back the Tide Pod Challenge.

[The column originally appeared in the January 30, 2020 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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