Lowering the voting age
A beneficial and important consideration
Over the course of the past year, there has been a significant increase in youth activism, especially concerning environmental issues. Due to the influence of inspirational Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, youth all over the world, including those in Canada, have began pressuring their governments to not only take action to improve the problematic environmental situation, but also to consider the environment in future political policy making.
Unfortunately, the power of the Canadian youth is somewhat limited because they lack the opportunity to contribute fully to our country’s political atmosphere. Although some people believe that 18 is an appropriate age for an individual to be granted the right to vote, I strongly disagree. In my opinion, lowering the voting age to 16 should be considered because not only would it be beneficial, but it also makes sense based on various legal, political, educational and social factors.
At the time of Canada’s first Federal Election, only 21 year old male citizens who owned a certain amount of property could vote [EIC’s note, not to mention the disenfranchisement of racialized and minority communities]. Since then, there have been a few significant changes in voting restrictions. For example, in 1918 women gained the right to vote. Later in 1970, the voting age restriction was lowered by three years from 21 to 18.
While these were major changes, which likely generated a great deal of controversy at the time, I think the time has once again come to consider making even more.
In Canadian society, the age of 16 comes with numerous legal rights, including driving, operating farm equipment, enrolling in the armed forces, and having paid employment – all elements that come with significant responsibility. Similarly, voting in an election calls for a lot of responsibility. If 16-year-olds can successfully manage to handle these other rights, they should also be able to cast a vote.
Another legal aspect is that once an individual has a job, they have to pay taxes and therefore should have the right to know and decide how that money is being spent by their government.
Additionally, according to article twelve of the United Nations Rights of the Children, every child has the right to express their views on issues that affect them. In my opinion, this is exactly what the point of voting is since individuals cast a ballot for the politician, or political party whom they believe will bring about the best changes, or improvement in areas that matter to them.
On the political side, allowing 16-year-olds the right to vote not only makes sense, but would also positively alter the political environment. People often refer to youth as being “the future,” and this phrase is most relevant when it comes to an election. It is the youth (16-25), rather than the older generation of the population which will be the most affected by the events of an election and the policies that follow. As a result, it is only fair that 16-year-olds are allowed to participate in and vote in an election.
Additionally, if more people in this age category participate in politics, it will directly change both the issues that are being discussed, and how these issues are discussed within the political sphere. Attention will be given to issues like education and the environment which are commonly ignored and overlooked by the older electorate. Younger voters will also make politics more interesting and easier to understand, which would be a major benefit for everyone, especially since many people complain that politics is difficult to grasp.
There are also educational reasons why 16-year-olds should be allowed to vote. At 16, individuals are still in school, which in a way increases the potential for them to be a more knowledgeable voter than those who are older. In addition to learning about politics from TV, the internet, and their family and friends, 16-year-olds can also gain valuable political knowledge as part of their education, regarding how the election process works, and how and why it is important to vote on issues that matter to them.
Lastly, giving 16-year-olds the right to vote is strongly supported by social factors as well. Despite the decrease in political engagement from the older generations of society, this is not the case with the younger generations (16 to 25).
In the most recent Federal Elections, there has been a significant rise in the amount of young voters. For example, the percentage of voters 18-24 rose from 38.8% in the 2011 federal election to 57.1% in 2015. Although the voters in this age group from our past election haven’t yet been calculated, it is likely this amount has once again increased based on the convenience of five days of advanced voting with 101 stations set up in 88 districts.
This increase in young voters emphasizes that younger individuals want to get involved and have a voice in the political climate of the country. If voting was lowered to 16 years of age, I strongly believe that this amount of young voters would continue to increase.
Voting is also perceived as a lifelong habit. If people start voting at an early age, it will likely become something that they continue to do throughout their life. This situation would be a major benefit because give it would allow democracy to continue without worrying about a potential decline in political involvement and engagement.
Throughout the world, a handful of countries, including six German states, Austria and Scotland, have all lowered their voting age to 16. I think it’s time for Canada to follow their example.
16-year-olds have demonstrated that they are knowledgeable and care enough about what was going on the world to take action. Therefore, why not give them a political voice?