Old Enough to Vote?
Faces - The Magazine of People, Places and Cultures for Kids|September 2020
Old Enough to Vote?
Nelson Mandela, the man who brought democracy to South Africa in 1994, thought everyone over the age of 14 should be allowed to vote. He said young people who had fought for freedom were old enough to help choose the country’s leaders. His bill was defeated, and the voting age was set at 18. That is the same age set in the United States and most other countries. Is this the right age? How do people decide when someone is old enough to vote?
Adele Fasick

When America was a new country, just starting out as a democracy, the idea of letting ordinary people vote was revolutionary. The men who wrote the constitution thought voters should be successful men who had experience as farmers or businessmen. Voters should be at least 21 years old and own property. Servants and slaves could not vote and neither could women. During the first few years of our new country, only about half of the white men were allowed to vote in some states.

No one is sure why 21 was chosen as the time when a man became an adult. During the Middle Ages in England, a young man could become a knight at the age of 21 because he had gained his full strength and could wear heavy armor. Gradually, that age was recognized as the time for taking on responsibilities, including voting. When countries around the world adopted voting as a way to choose their leaders, they often set the age at 21 or even higher.


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September 2020