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How Not to Make an Argument

The Baltimore Sun has given voice to one of the nuttier letters to the editor I have seen in a while. 

The letter, written by Mark Spradley of Chevy Chase, suggests that 16 year-olds be given the right to vote. Seriously. Spradley was a Republican candidate for Comptroller in 2006, and finished a distant 3rd to nominee Anne McCarthy.

So, let’s go to the tape:

On Sept. 17, 1787, the 55 delegates of the Constitutional Convention held their final meeting with one item on the agenda — signing the Constitution.

A non-sequitur to start, and one unrelated to the rest of his letter.

This November, under-18-year-olds will not be able to vote in congressional and state elections. Why? It’s the law. Almost certainly, new strategies are needed to increase civic engagement in Maryland and even the United States. Is it time for a robust debate concerning lowering the voting age in Maryland to 16? Yes, Maryland should follow the lead of the City of Tacoma Park and give 16-year-olds the right to vote in state elections.

That’s the extent of the argument that is made for lowering the voting age. That’s it. We need “new strategies are needed to increase civic engagement in Maryland and even the United States.” Perhaps. Perhaps not. Thought at no point is there any suggestions as to why lowering the voting age to 16 would increase “civic engagement.”

He also spelled Takoma Park wrong, but we’ll leave that aside.

The Maryland State Board of Election reported statewide voter turnout was 74 percent for the 2012 General Election. By registration, 75.56 percent of Democrats voted, 77.76 percent of Republicans, 64.13 percent ofLibertarians and 64.28 percent of those unaffiliated with a party.. Clearly, lowering the voting age to 16 isn’t a partisan issue.

If you’re trying to connect how voter turnout proves that proves that “lowering the voting age to 16 isn’t a partisan issue”, you won’t be able to. These are two completely separate thoughts that just happen to be consecutive sentences in a paragraph. The two thoughts have nothing to do with each other and the first thought doesn’t prove the second. This would be a great time to provide some sort of data that would show that lowering the voting age to 16 isn’t a partisan issue. Except he doesn’t. And I’m guessing he doesn’t have any.

Maryland has an 88.5 percent high school graduation rate compared to the national rate of 85.7 percent. The average household income in Maryland is $72,999 compared to $53,046 nationally. If the vast majority of Maryland’s 16-year-olds are on track to lead productive lives and contribute to society, why shouldn’t they have more of a say in their future?

And again, a series of sentences that have absolutely no relation to the point that he is trying to make. How does Maryland’s graduation rate have anything to do with voting trends? What does average household income have to do with voter participation? How do statistics aimed at adults help to prove that “the vast majority of Maryland’s 16-year-olds are on track to lead productive lives?” It doesn’t. And when you consider the problems that we are having in other schools throughout the state with academic achievement and dropout rates, I’m guessing that they probably aren’t too focused on granting the right to vote to 16-year olds.

The funny part about lowering the voting age from 18 to 16 is the number of things that you can’t do (and still wouldn’t be able to do) at age 16. Parents will still be legally responsible for these voters for another two years. They still can’t enter into a contract. They still can’t enter the armed forces. And they’d still need permission from a parent to take an aspirin in school

There are people out there who seriously want to lower the voting age to 16, and I’m not sure anybody is really concerned about a Wild in the Streets scenario. But for those people who support this idea, I hope for their sake they have better arguments than this.

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