Lowering the Voting Age

             In most societies, a 16 year old can learn to drive, get a job, and can take on other adult responsibilities, so why isn’t the voting age in Canada 16? Why do we have to wait to turn 18 to vote? I believe that there are many compelling reasons why the voting age should be lowered; the significance of turning 16, the educational advantages of engaging citizens in voting at an early age, and the success that other jurisdictions have had in lowering the voting age.

             Turning 16 is a milestone birthday, where driving, employment and other “adult” activities become possible. Including voting rights as part of this milestone birthday will reinforce the idea that voting is an exciting thing to be able to do, and a way to take part in society. Associating the age of being able to drive, with being able to vote, may increase the likelihood of 16 year olds wanting to vote, as it will seem like an exciting privilege. Many people are concerned with lowering the voting age to 16 because 16 year olds will be swayed to vote for who their parents vote for. This may have been true in the past, but it is shown that 16 year olds now are more conscious of the world around them than any other teenage generation in the past. Gen Z’s social activism and technology skills make them particularly well suited to participate in the democratic process. As someone who is a part of Gen-Z, I think that this is very true. In talking to my friends, classmates and peers, the vast majority of them actively take part in social activism, and in expansion to that, would vote if they were given the opportunity. As for many adults saying that we would only vote for who are parents vote for, I also disagree. Many of my friends, including myself, have differing political views from those of their parents.  As for people that say 16 year olds have little knowledge about politics and voting, an American study published in 2010, done by Daniel Hart, and Robert Atkins shows that some 16 year olds have more political knowledge than older voters from the ages of 18 to 30. Sixteen year olds care about the world around them and denying them the right to vote serves no purpose.  Society does not need to be protected from the political views of 16 year olds anymore that any other group of voters.  

             Lowering the voting age to 16 will result in voters who are better educated about the importance of voting and who better understand their civic duties.  Sixteen year olds are in an environment where it is possible to educate them on voting to set them up for the rest of their lives. If the voting age was lowered to 16, there could be mandated education on voting for 16 year olds to increase their chance and willingness to vote. What better way to reinforce a lesson on civic engagement, than actually being able to vote? 

              The other advantage of lowering the voting age to 16, an age where most people still live with their parents, means that the topic of voting will be brought to the dinner table, whereas many 18 year olds have moved out, or are away at school. Bringing the topic of voting into a household and within a family will increase everyone’s chances of voting. If your parents don’t vote, and you want to and discuss it with them, then they will be more likely to begin to vote as well. In an article by Annie Murphy, a teenager said that her mother had never voted in her life, but when her daughter wanted to vote the mother went with her. Although this is only one family, it shows that this can be a positive chain reaction. In my family, we have always discussed politics and social activism, which is part of the reason why I am I am interested in these topics. I think that if more families talked about politics, we would see an increase on voters of all ages. 

                If you still don’t agree that lowering the voting age is a good idea, you can just look at how successful it has been in other places where the voting age has been lowered. Brazil, Denmark, Austria, Argentina, Cube, Ecuador, Malta, and Germany are just a few of the countries that have lowered the voting age to 16. Studies done in Denmark, Austria, and in some municipal elections in the United States  show that 16 year olds are engaged in voting and in other political discussions and citizens develop life long habits to participate in voting.

               A society is strong when all members participate in the political process.  There is no compelling reason that a 16 year old who can drive, work  and make other adult decisions shouldn’t be permitted to vote. Engaging people at a younger age in the democratic process will result in better informed citizens who understand the importance of voting.  We have seen it work in other jurisdictions and there is no reason it won’t work here.