When our founders decided who should vote, the requirement was to be an adult, that is 21 years of age. At 21, an adult could make decisions, vote, sign contracts, get married and enjoy all the rights and privileges of citizenship.
To be a member of a militia, a man was expected to be at least 16 and younger than 60. For years, young men joined the military when they “were big enough.” In the Civil War, some drummers were as young as 10 and nobody expected they should vote just because they were in a war.
The U.S. government fought the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, The Mexican War, World Wars I and II, Korea, and Vietnam with 18 the minimum age for conscription. In 1971 the Congress and eventually enough state governments panicked and changed centuries of what was thought of as being the age of an adult to assuage their guilt feelings and said 18 can now be the age to vote. The excuse given was, “if they are old enough to fight, then they are old enough to vote.”
One hidden agenda was the political thought that if 18 was the voting age, they would “all rise up and vote to stop all wars.” But the draft was also ended before the Vietnam War ended, so there are no feelings about the current wars.
Congress slowly decided that kids at 18 were too dumb to actually be adults. Yeah, they could vote, but they were way too young to drink alcoholic beverages because the drove cars while drunk. The states did not have to change their drinking age law, but if they didn’t the federal government would cut off transportation money.
Other laws changed. When they committed a crime they weren’t really adults. They were too immature for a concealed carry handgun permit even though the original idea was “old enough to fight.”
It was decided college “kids” should be able to vote wherever they go to school. Suddenly the voting population in many towns was taken over by the temporary student population. In one town, the students took over the town council and voted to construct a building two inches wide and one hundred feet high. State College had been a semi-dry town since Prohibition ended. As soon as the thousands of visiting college students could vote, they removed restrictions allowing the bars to sell anything. Anybody remember Beta Theta Pi? Don’t blame the kids, they are all adults, remember.
Maybe those politicians in 1971 were a bit too hasty. Maybe the hundreds of years allowing humans to mature to adulthood at 21 was not really a bad thing.