Our politics are polarizing, to the point that, at least in Washington, D. C., little kids are getting into fights on the playground over politics. Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak quotes a letter to parents sent by a school and cites her own 5-year-old’s political dilemma:
“A gentle reminder: As a Quaker school and as an inclusive community, I am reaching out to you, the adults, to talk to your child about respecting others’ views and seeing the Light in each classmate and colleague despite differences of opinion. We in Lower School have found our students at times judging one another harshly for each other’s political views or party preferences.
“This is relevant, of course, in relation to many issues in school life, not just the election. Our children do mimic our adult behavior, and this is an excellent opportunity for each of us to express our views in a manner that is not insulting or demeaning of others.”
Or you could just label it: “Stop Teasing the Republicans!”
My 5-year-old is all in pieces because some of his playground friends like Mitt Romney and others like President Obama. He is torn.
“I just don’t know who to vote for,” he said.
Meanwhile, an idea is being floated that would let children vote! Actually, their parents would vote for them until they gradually transition into maturity. Semyon Dukach explains:
Three major extensions of voting rights have been implemented since our republic was founded. The 15th Amendment extended suffrage to former slaves after the Civil War. The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920. And the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, to match the draft age during the Vietnam War.
There is one clear path for our nation to navigate today’s crisis of political deadlock, growing debt, and under-investment in infrastructure, core science and education. We must lead the world by expanding our democracy and amending our Constitution. We should include those who remain unrepresented in our democratic process: children.
The most straightforward solution to reasonably represent the interests of children younger than 13 is known as “Demeny voting,” after the demographer who raised the issue in the 1980s. Under the Demeny system, the parents or guardians of these children split the vote of each child. In cases in which legal custody is shared between a father and mother, both would control an additional half-vote at the polls for each of their children age 13 and younger.
For example, if a couple has two children, each parent would wield two votes (one each for themselves and a half-vote for each child). A family of four would have four votes. In a family of five, with two adults and three children, each parent would have 2.5 votes (one for themselves and 1.5 for the three children). Again, this adds up to the total number of people in the family. If a single parent had sole custody, he or she would get the entire extra vote.
For adolescents, a simple variation of the Demeny voting scheme could allow them to be gradually emancipated. They could cast 20 percent of their vote at age 14, 40 percent at 15, 60 percent at 16, 80 percent at 17 and 100 percent at 18 (as they may today). The remaining diminishing percentage of their vote would be split each year between their parents or legal guardians, just as in Demeny voting, so that the total number of votes eligible to be cast in the nation will always be equal to the total number of citizens of all ages.
This voting scheme has drawbacks, including that it gives excessive power to parents of large families. And some parents might vote to protect their own interests instead of their children’s. But it would still be a crucial improvement over the status quo. Giving people younger than 18 indirect political representation will result in a more forward-looking balance of power among Americans. It would enable more political investment in our children’s future. Most important, by completing our national journey from a country ruled by landowning white men to one run on the principle of “one person, one vote,” we would lead the world in securing the inalienable universal human right to democratic representation.
Well, this would give families greater clout. Counting chads for fractions of votes would be rather challenging. This would make universal suffrage more universal. And it would indeed encourage large families and give them a bigger say in the body politic. It still, though, strikes me as insane.