Dear Vermont Senators Chittenden, Sirotkin, and Lyons – I write to encourage you to vote AGAINST H361, a Vermont House of Representatives bill that entails a Brattleboro charter change allowing 16-17 year olds to vote in municipal elections and hold local office.
There are a number of reasons why I am against the charter change.
Obvious ones include the fact that purchase of alcohol and cigarettes in Vermont requires someone to be 21. There is a good reason for that age restriction, as I am sure you are aware of.
But, the major reason I am against the charter change is because the teenage brain is not yet fully developed in a critical area: the rational part of the brain that directs good judgement, the prefrontal cortex. This key developmental milestone is not reached until the mid-20s and explains why teenagers often act in a dangerous and irresponsible manner. You can read more here.
“The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so.
In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part.
In teens’ brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are still developing—and not always at the same rate. That’s why when teens have overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking as much as they were feeling.”
The counter-argument to the point I make is that many adults who are older than 25 often do NOT think or act rationally. I agree, and that is a sobering reality… but that is no reason (in my opinion) to extend voting rights to individuals whose brain is still developing in key areas that will certainly impact making important rational decisions when voting on important societal issues.
Thank you for your consideration of my concerns and perspectives.
Gerry Silverstein, PhD, South Burlington