An estimated 113 million Americans across the country banded together on Nov. 6 to exercise one of the most vital parts of our democracy, becoming the only midterm election in U.S. history to exceed 100 million votes.

One increasingly vocal group that has been left out of that category are hardworking, taxpaying, 16 and 17-year-old citizens.

Up until the Vietnam War, the legal voting age was 21, until the government faced harsh criticism for drafting 18 year olds to fight and die for their country while not giving them the right to vote for the politicians sending them to war.

This led to a movement aiming to change the voting age to 18, using slogans like “old enough to fight, old enough to vote.” It settled and became federal law in 1971 through the 26th Amendment and was ratified in just four months.

This didn’t actually work out very well, given 18 to 29-year-olds tend to vote at far lower rates than any other age group dating back to the 1980s, according to U.S. Census Bureau. This may have a strong connection to the struggles of transitioning from adolescence to adulthood.

Young adults are adjusting to new lifestyles and busier schedules, while having less contact with good civic role models like parents and teachers. Some are moving to college and need to register for absentee ballots, meaning they aren’t always as aware of local issues if they aren’t living at home.

These factors can lead to poor voting habits that might last several years until they reach a different age bracket.

While 18 to 29-year-olds might be in a sour spot to become active voters, 16 to 17-year-olds are in a sweet spot to gain a consistent habit of voting. Studies have shown that the habits we make when we are younger are much harder to break later in life. Reports from the European Research Counsel show young people who fail to vote in the first two elections of their lives are most likely to become chronic abstentionists.

High school students who are taking civics and social studies classes in school are more likely to have recent knowledge of how the government works. They can talk to their parents and be more inclined to understand how local and federal government can and will affect them later in life.

In some small municipalities in the U.S., 16 and 17-year-olds have been granted the right to vote in local elections. In Takoma Park, Maryland, they were twice as likely to vote as people 18 or older.

Not only is a formation of voting habits at a young age good for adolescents, but it has also proven to be positive for trickle-up voting.

If lowering the voter age means we have more active young voters creating consistent voting habits, I don’t see the downside of allowing them the right to participate in one of the most pivotal parts of our democracy.

Everyone who has a stake in society should have the right to vote and no one has more of a stake than young Americans. Therefore, they might be more inclined to take the long view on issues.

When you’re in charge of fixing something, you’re a lot less likely to break it.   

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