The 16- and 17-year-olds who voted in Scotland’s referendum didn’t determine the outcome. The margin of victory for the “yes” vote was larger than their total number of votes. But they did make a strong case to the rest of the world for a lower voting age. The U.K.’s voting age is 18, but Scottish Nationalist Party leader Alex Salmond struck a deal to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to participate in the referendum, believing it would benefit the “yes” vote. It was a logical calculation: Support for independence was highest among those under 30. Pre-election polls and surveys, however, suggested that voters under 18 were narrowly divided and leaning the other way. Kids today. So conservative. If Salmond had gotten his wish, and the vast majority of 16- and 17-year olds had voted for independence, conservatives at home and abroad would have tut-tutted that they were too young to know what they were doing. By not voting as a bloc, and by largely mirroring societal attitudes, the young Scots knocked down the image of young voters as radicals. In doing so, they gave a big boost to the argument that 16-year-olds can responsibly participate in the democratic process — and to a nascent international movement to lower voting ages.
If 16-year-old Scots can participate in a national election with historic consequences — and acquit themselves well — why not allow them to vote for members of Parliament? And if young Scots can vote, why not young people in the rest of Europe — and elsewhere?
Few countries allow those under 18 to vote, and two that do are not exactly models of democracy: Cuba and North Korea. (Choice of candidates in those countries is another matter.) In Hungary, you can vote if you are 16, but only if you’re married. (“I now pronounce you voters.”) One nation has no minimum voting age at all: Anyone under 80 can vote for the Holy See’s head of state. (The other eligibility requirements, however, are rather stiff.)
Full Article: Scotland’s Other Winners: Teenage Voters – Bloomberg View.