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Professor: Sixteen A Better Age To Start Voting

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — As students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School continue to raise awareness for a change to the current gun laws nationwide, one professor from the University of Kentucky thinks this could also be a way to include young people in the voting process.

Joshua A. Douglas, professor of election law and voting rights, spoke with The Dom Giordano Program on Talk Radio 1210 WPHT.

Douglas said, "The research I've done on cognitive development and civic participation demonstrates that 18 is somewhat of an arbitrary age to start the habit of voting and 16 would be a lot better. There are some local jurisdictions that already allow this. I've already done some scholarly work over the past several years, advocating for more cities and towns to adopt a lower voting age as a way to bring people into the political process early. Eventually I think it will spread."

Douglas explained that people have "hot and cold" cognition. Most people develop "cold" cognition earlier than "hot," according to Douglas, allows people to articulate thoughts and vote under their own influences.

"Hot cognition is things involving impulse control, peer pressure, heat of the moment type activities. It's true that brains don't develop for hot cognition activities really until age 23, 24, maybe 25 years old. Cold cognition, however, is a sort of thing that takes reason decision-making, thought, where you have some time to consider your options. Brains are developed by age 16. Nothing magical happens by age 18, but something magical does happen in terms of physiology, and where we see that in everyday life is we allow 16-year-old's in most states to drive. The age of mandatory education in many states is 16 or 17, where you can chose to drop out."

Douglas also praised the students of Parkland, Florida for bringing a reason discussion on gun control to the table.

"I think what they're doing is getting reason discussion on gun control into the national debate in a way others haven't been able to do," he explained.  "I think many movements have come about from young people and this one seems no different in terms of young people, yes, using passion, but also engaging the public and having a substantive debate on these issues."

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