Momentum is building around the world to lower the voting age to 16 years. A similar shift occurred in the 1970s when the age was reduced from 21 to 18. Some nations have already made the shift, with voting in national or local elections occurring at age 16 in Austria, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, the Philippines, Argentina, Nicaragua, Brazil and Ecuador. Others are in the process of debating this. At the recent British election, the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats committed to lowering the voting age to 16. This followed the successful experiment of granting 16-year-olds the right to vote in the referendum on Scottish independence. It is expected that the vote will soon be extended to them generally for elections to the Scottish Parliament.
The subject has also been debated on and off in Australia. In the process of becoming a state, the Northern Territory has passed a law providing for the election of a constitutional convention to debate a new constitution. That law permits 16- and 17-year-olds not only to vote, but also to stand for the convention.
Most recently, the member for Strathfield, Jodi McKay, called for the NSW Parliament to “lead debate on changing the legal age of voting in NSW to 16 years of age”. She argued that “the fact that these young people are unable to have an immediate say on the future of education, on TAFE, on the environment, on health services and public transport, I believe does us a disservice”.
McKay has a point, and now is the time to start a community conversation about lowering the voting age. My view is that it should be reduced to 16 by way of a cautious, incremental path.
Full Article: Lowering the voting age to 16 would be good for democracy.